Crowley, Ashwaubenon turn back De Pere in FRCC play
By Greg Bates
ASHWAUBENON – When Mack Crowley is on the mound, the Ashwaubenon baseball team has a great shot to win every game.
The senior leader delivered in a big way against rival De Pere Friday.
After allowing three runs in the first two innings, Crowley settled in and faced just two hitters over the minimum in the last five innings.
Crowley’s offense did the rest, scoring the final five runs of the game in a 7-3 victory over De Pere at Ashwaubomay Memorial Park.
The victory keeps Ashwaubenon in the driver’s seat to win its first Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) title since 2010.
The Jaguars are now 13-2 in the conference standings, two games ahead of Green Bay Preble (13-4) in the loss column.
With De Pere — which came into the game in third place in the FRCC race — coming to town, Ashwaubenon coach Jay Krueger said he banked on Crowley coming through.
“He’s the guy you want out there,” he said. “He’s the leader. We’ve got strong pitching across the board, but Mack’s the senior, the ace.”
Rain came down before the game, and Krueger said his pitcher struggled early with his footing.
Crowley surrendered three runs on four hits in the opening two innings.
From that point on, he gave up just a pair of hits.
“Definitely started out rough,” Crowley said. “They scored the first two innings, and then I found my rhythm and groove and settled in the rest of the game.”
The De Pere hitters were held in check after the first time through the order.
“We’ve been in a bit of a hitting slump here the last four or five games, but we hit the ball well,” De Pere Head Coach Bob Van Rens said. “(Ashwaubenon) played good defense and made all the plays behind Mack. Tip your cap to them – they beat us today. We’re hoping to play them again in the playoffs.”
De Pere (13-6 overall, 11-5 FRCC) jumped on Crowley early, as Bryson Webb and Easton Arendt led off the game with back-to-back hits.
Garrett Foth drew a one-out walk to load the bases.
Luke Brosig then hit a dribbler to first base that was bobbled and then thrown into the dugout, allowing Webb and courtesy runner Louie Jossart to score.
Ashwaubenon (16-4) answered in its half of the first.
With Eason Hurd and Eli Zollar on base and two out, Josh Witt hit a single to bring home Hurd.
Crowley then helped his cause with a double to drive in Zollar to make it 2-2.
Bryan Gerbers started the Redbirds’ second with a double.
He scored on an errant throw to first base by Crowley to put De Pere back in front, 3-2.
“That’s the way the team reacts,” Krueger said. “They get down, they don’t stop and they keep working. They realize they need to keep working.”
In the third, Zollar and Witt stroked singles to get the Jaguars’ rally started.
After a wild pitch moved both runners up one base, Crowley reached on an error, scoring Zollar.
With two away, No. 9 hitter Matt Schuch laced a double to left-center field to bring in Witt and Crowley to give the home team a 5-3 advantage.
Crowley, settling in on the mound, opened the fifth with a double.
Krueger looked to his bench with two out and opted for pinch hitter Cam Jackson.
On the second pitch from De Pere starter Arendt, Jackson hit a bomb to straightaway center for a home run.
Following the game, the Ashwaubenon coaches estimated Jackson’s two-run homer traveled about 390 feet.
“This whole season, he’s worked hard,” Krueger said. “He started out with a back problem, which held him back, but now he’s been doing well. The couple at-bats he’s gotten, he basically gets four pitches and walks. So today, he got a pitch he could see and hit.”
Crowley retired the final seven batters he faced.
“It’s big,” Crowley said. “It keeps our momentum going – this was big for us.”
The win gave Ashwaubenon a regular-season series sweep against De Pere.
Last year, the Redbirds won all three matchups against the Jaguars.
A third game could be in store this season if the teams happen to meet in the playoffs because they’re in the same Division 1 sectional.
Ashwaubenon will host Bay Port (12-8, 9-5) in a doubleheader Monday at Ashwaubomay Memorial Park.
The next day, the Jaguars travel to Joannes Park to face Green Bay Preble in the final FRCC game of the season.
If Ashwaubenon can win at least two of those three games, it will earn the outright conference championship.
“We’re going to try to go one game at a time and keep battling every game,” Crowley said. “We need more wins, so keep going from here on out. Hopefully, keep playing how we are right now.”