Tim Roehrig had watched Haley Hestekin excel against national competition, so the Kaukauna coach knew he wasn’t getting a typical freshman pitcher this spring.
He was getting a ninth-grade student with first-rate talent.
Hestekin has been lights-out in the circle for much of the season and the freshman phenom continued to mow down hitters at a rapid rate Tuesday in Kaukauna’s 4-0 WIAA Division 1 softball sectional semifinal win over Oshkosh North at Bayorgeon Field.
Hestekin fired a one-hit shutout with six strikeouts to extend the Ghosts’ winning streak to 27 games and lift top-seeded Kaukauna (27-1) into a 3:30 p.m. sectional championship Thursday against Fox Valley Association foe Kimberly, a second seed.
Kaukauna, ranked No. 1 among Division 1 teams in the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association poll, swept the regular-season FVA series from the Papermakers, but by tight scores of 2-1 and 1-0. The Ghosts were the FVA champion, while Kimberly finished second.
Hestekin kept Kaukauna’s state tournament hopes alive Tuesday with a superb pitching performance. The only North baserunner she allowed was Lexi Reetz, who drilled a two-out double in the fourth inning to break up Hestekin’s bid for a no-hitter and a perfect game.
“She has the mentality that when she walks out there, no one is going to touch her,” said Roehrig. “I’m not surprised with the success she’s had. I expected her to be really good. Our (Kaukauna) team went to nationals last summer with her on the mound. And she pitched really well in big games against some of the best teams in the nation. She throws hard, hits her spots and her ball moves a lot.”
It was the second consecutive shutout of the postseason for Hestekin, who throws a variety of pitches, including a fastball, riseball, screwball, dropball, curve and change-up. She received plenty of run support and the Ghosts also backed her in the field with stellar defense.
“I thought our defense was really solid,” said Hestekin. “I thought that was the key. Haley Huss had some really good plays at short and took away a couple of hits. And Amanda Diedrich had some incredible plays at third. We came out really focused.”
Kaukauna struck quickly, getting a run in the bottom of the first on a triple by Huss and a sacrifice fly by cleanup hitter Andrea Gocker.
Kaukauna added two more in the third on a two-run double to the right-center gap by Gocker, who is hitting over .400.
“Gokes is a senior and she’s been talking about clutching up and doing it,” said Roehrig. “She had her opportunities today and she took full advantage of them. She’s girl who can put it out of the park with one swing and everyone knows that. That scares teams. It would scare me if I was pitching against her.”
Jordan VanderVelden knocked in the Ghosts’ final run with an RBI single in the fourth.
WP: Haley Hestekin. LP: Shaye Gauthier. Leading hitters: Lexi Reetz ON 2B; Haley Huss K 2B; Andrea Gocker K 2B, 3 RBI.