KAUKAUNA — The Kaukauna softball team isn’t unfamiliar with the word success.
In 2010, the Ghosts won the Division 1 state title and from 2010-11, the Ghosts won 52 straight games.
This season, after losing its opener, Kaukauna is halfway to that 52-game winning streak, having won 26 straight games. Not to compare this year’s team with the 2010 or 2011 team, but it appears the Ghosts are state-title worthy.
A big reason Kaukauna hasn’t lost since the opener is pitcher Haley Hestekin. The freshman, who was talked about last season when she was in eighth grade, has been an ace for the Ghosts, who have allowed just one team to score as many as three runs in a game.
“I just try to do my job,” a modest Hestekin said. “We’re just doing whatever we can. We’re trying our hardest in practice, trying to perfect everything so we can win.”
Hestekin made her postseason debut last week and blanked Hartford, 3-0, in a regional final. Tuesday, the Ghosts host Fox Valley Association foe Oshkosh North in a sectional semifinal.
While some may be impressed the freshman, she isn’t new to the spotlight. She has pitched in national tournaments, so the pressure of playing in arguably the best conference in the state for softball and at the Division 1 level hasn’t fazed her.
“I’m really proud of her, personally, because she’s really strong on the mound, stays focused and that’s what we need in a strong pitcher,” catcher Keely Maloney said. “Even when she does get hit we have a solid defense to back her up.”
Coach Tim Roehrig knew how good Hestekin was before this season, and likely could’ve used her during last year’s 16-12 season, but even she has opened his eyes.
“As a freshman you know what they’re capable of coming in because you’ve seen them kind of grow and progress,” he said. “But she’s definitely, I think, come in here and opened some eyes to what she’s capable of doing.”
Kaukauna is ranked No. 1 in the state, but the Ghosts know rankings mean nothing when it comes to the postseason. Some of these players watched Stevens Point end Kaukauna’s 52-game winning streak in a sectional final in 2011.
“This group like the other group just loves playing ball with each other, they love being around each other, they love practicing, they love doing things together,” Roehrig said “We don’ t talk so much about comparing them.
“We kind of talk about what we have together and what we have as a group and that’s where we’re at.”
That group starts with Hestekin in the circle.
“You go out there and you try your best every time,” she said. “How it turns out, is how it turns out.”
For the Ghosts, it usually turns out pretty good.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay