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Ashwaubenon softball advances to sectionals

By Greg Bates

ASHWAUBENON – For the first time since 2018, the Ashwaubenon softball team will be competing in sectionals.

Thanks to a lights-out pitching performance by Berritt Herr and fellow freshman Gianna Guarascio driving in four runs, the Jaguars beat Appleton North 10-0 in five innings in a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 regional final May 26 at Pioneer Park.

“It’s an expectation of ours that you get to the sectionals, and these girls know that and that comes with playing here,” Ashwaubenon Head Coach Shannon VanLaanen said. “That was a goal at the beginning of the season and it will continue to be a goal. I’m proud of them and knew what they were capable of doing. You see we got better and better (as the season went along), and that’s what you try and do — play your best game at the end of the year.”

In her first season on varsity, Herr helped propel the Jaguars back to sectionals.

“It feels amazing to get it for the seniors because it’s been a few years,” Herr said. “I’m happy and grateful we got this opportunity to play and win.”

Berritt Herr

No. 5-seeded Ashwaubenon was clicking in all phases against No. 13 North, which had upset Bay Port to advance to the regional final.

“Today we showed that we can do all three aspects,” VanLaanen said. “We swung the bats well, we had good pitching and we had some good defense. If we’re down in one area, the other two can pick it up.”

Ashwaubenon will need to up its game even more in sectionals, as it will face the top-ranked Division 1 team in the state, Kaukauna.

The Ghosts (26-0) are averaging 9.7 runs per game.

The Kaukauna-Ashwaubenon sectional matchup will be at Kaukauna Tuesday, May 31.

In the circle against North, Herr struck out the first seven batters she faced.

She recorded 12 of the game’s 15 outs via strikeout.

Herr allowed one hit and only two other North players reached base.

Herr said her screwball, fastball and rise ball were working well for her.

“It feels good to throw some strikes and get ahead of the game,” she said.

Offensively, Ashwaubenon (19-8) needed only six hits to pile up double-digit runs.

The Jaguars took advantage of seven walks — five of which came around to score — by North (3-20).

“We were seeing it well today,” Senior Nyia Marohl, who finished 2-for-3 and drove in three runs, said. “Sometimes, we struggle with hitting, but today, we did good and were determined to get ahead early.”

Nyia Marohl

It didn’t take Ashwaubenon long to let the game get out of control.

Olivia Zabel walked to lead off the bottom of the first inning, Gianna Guarascio struck out but reached bases on a passed ball and Marohl stroked a single to center field to bring in Zabel.

Liz Cleveland walked and Liz Witt hit a fly ball to center that was dropped, and both Guarascio and Marohl scored to make it 3-0.

In the second inning, Zabel worked a one-out walk, and Guarascio followed with a two-run homer to right.

Marohl then hit a rope over the centerfield fence for back-to-back home runs.

“I knew I wanted to drive the run in and get the team ahead again – get some more runs on the board,” Guarascio said.

Ashwaubenon added to its lead in the third inning as Maddie Eliason and Brynn Bauer both scored on a single by Guarascio.

Marohl hit a groundout to bring in Zabel for the third time in the game for a 9-0 lead.

Elly Kirst walked to open the fourth inning and came around to score on a groundout by Elle Justman.

Herr fanned the final two batters of the game.

“It’s a good confidence builder for Berritt to come out and go right after them,” VanLaanen said. “She knew what she wanted to do – she had a plan and executed it. I was proud of the girls. Putting up runs early in the game can change the pace of the game. When you’re playing with confidence, it’s easier to pitch and hit with the lead.”

Gianna Guarascio

A big reason the Jaguars are advancing to sectionals was the play of the three freshmen on their team.

Herr threw the complete-game gem, Guarascio had a pair of hits and tallied four RBI and Kirst scored a run.

Guarascio said she has enjoyed watching the underclassmen mesh with the upperclassmen.

“It’s cool to see the different grade levels contribute,” she said. “Every grade has a different part of this team – to know we can carry on the tradition for many years to come.”

VanLaanen has gotten contributions from his freshmen all season, so getting them to come through in the clutch in the postseason hasn’t been a surprise.

“We had a talk not too long again that we don’t have freshmen anymore – we’re a team at this point,” VanLaanen said. “With the experience Berritt, Gianna and Elly have, we’re one through 18. I don’t look at them as freshmen anymore, and they don’t play like freshmen. They came out and let the game come to them.”

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