KIMBERLY — If you like pitching the place to be Friday afternoon was Sunset Park because two of the better pitchers in the area, maybe the state, were on display in a key Fox Valley Association softball game.
Kaukauna freshman phenom Haley Hestekin was opposing Kimberly’s Megan Kleist with first place on the line in the FVA.
Hestekin and Kleist lived up to expectations, combining for 15 strikeouts, three hits allowed and one run allowed. In the end, it was Hestekin who survived the pitcher’s duel as the Ghosts won their 15th straight game, beating Kimberly, 1-0.
“I just came out there and tried to do my best,” Hestekin said. “I just focused on every pitch, hit my spot and try to make it move.”
Hestekin recorded nine strikeouts, including the last out of the game, and allowed one hit. Meanwhile, Kleist, the Oregon recruit, registered six strikeouts and allowed two hits.
In the teams’ earlier meeting this season, runs were also at a premium in a Kaukauna 2-1 win. Friday more of the same was expected because of the pitchers and the conditions.
A strong wind was blowing from center field, so driving the ball was going to be difficult. However, Kimberly (13-2, 20-1) third baseman Jenna Smarzinski nearly tied the game in the third inning but her drive to left field curled foul before clearing the fence.
Kaukauna’s run came in the first, when Alissa Heid plated Haley Huss with a bunt single
That’s all Hestekin needed. The freshman was in control most of the game, but maybe didn’t have her best stuff. The wind, she said, affected her pitching.
“My ball doesn’t move as much, but it gives me more speed,” she said. “I kind of like that.”
“I don’t know if her ball was moving as much as I’ve seen it,” Kaukauna coach Tim Roehrig said. “She was good, no doubt about it. Nothing to take away from the game, but I know what she’s capable of.”
The fact Roehrig wasn’t beaming says something. Earlier in the week Hestekin blanked Appleton North, 1-0. While she’s a freshman, she’s beyond her years.
Roehrig said scoring first was crucial.
“It gives you a little bit of comfort, otherwise you might be here until tomorrow with two those two girls pitching; they can shut teams all day long,” Roehrig said. “You have to execute every chance you get.”
Kaukauna (15-1, 10-1) now controls its destiny in the FVA. Win out and the title is the Ghosts. That’s easier said than done.
“They’ve had their eyes set on that goal from Day 1,” Roehrig said. “There’s still some tough games out there. It’s definitely a big win for us.”
Hestekin wants the FVA title, but doesn’t want to stop there.
“I think it would boost our confidence to win the conference title,” she said. “That’s been one of our goals since Day 1.
“We’re worried about the big picture. We want to make it down to Madison.”
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay