ASHWAUBENON — If Monday’s performance was any indicator it appears the Ashwaubenon softball team will once again be a factor in the Fox River Classic Conference.
Jaguars pitcher Madison Manders was in mid-season form already as she mowed down West De Pere and drove in the game’s first run as the Jaguars beat the Phantoms, 4-0, in a nonconference game.
“They have some great hitters; Madison controlled the zone,” said first-year Ashwaubenon coach Shannon VanLaanen. “She got ahead of a lot of batters and that makes a difference. She can throw three pitches at any time in the count, whether she’s ahead or behind.
“She’s a senior now and you can tell. She wants the ball.”
“I felt really good,” Manders said. “Coming off with a win was really important. I think that we have a great season coming ahead of us.
Manders was in a couple tough spots, but always wiggled out of trouble. The most notable was in the sixth inning when West De Pere had runners on first and third with one out and its Nos. 3 and 4 hitters coming up to bat.
Manders coaxed a popup for an out and a groundout and then the Jaguars plated two runs in the bottom of the inning to basically secure the result.
“I was kind of nervous,” Manders said. “I know I have a great defense behind me. I know we can get the outs when we need to.
“The extra two runs were huge,” VanLaanen said. “We struggled early. They ran the bases well.”
“We’ve had all winter. Pitchers and catchers have been working for months. I think at the beginning of the season it’s a pitching battle.”
Monday’s win was Ashwaubenon’s first in-state. The Jaguars won two games in Florida over spring break and now are focused on winning the Fox River Classic Conference.
Last year, Ashwaubenon placed third in the FRCC behind Green Bay Preble and Bay Port and it’s possible those three teams will battle again for the top spot.
“I'm very confident,” Manders said. “I think that this is our year. We have so many seniors. We’re playing to win. We’re going to win this conference.
“Preble and Bay Port are going to be top in the conference and the ones to beat. We’re ready to play them.”
“We’ll compete every game,” VanLaanen said. “We have 10 seniors back, so I totally expect them to give us their best every game.”
“Our conference is one of the toughest in the state.”
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay