Softball: Wasilewski, Grant shut out Jacobs for regional crown
The saying "pitching wins championships" may be cliché, but it's one as truthful and timeless now as it's ever been.
It was proved true again during Friday's Class 4A Jacobs regional softball title game between Grant and Jacobs.
Grant junior starting pitcher Shelby Wasilewski was lights-out during her complete-game 4-0 shutout against the previously red-hot Golden Eagles offense -- an offense which had tallied 23 combined runs in its previous three games.
Wasilewski scattered four hits without allowing a walk and struck out seven, but most importantly, didn't allow a Jacobs baserunner beyond first base until the top of the seventh inning.
"I was feeling really good today, and knew I had my defense behind me," said Wasilewski, a Division II Montana St. softball commit. "I tried to throw a lot of inside pitches, mixed with changeups. That seemed to keep their lineup off-balance."
Her outing was in stark contrast to the first time she pitched against Jacobs earlier this season, in the first game of a doubleheader on April 23, when the Bulldogs allowed 10 runs and lost.
"The first time I faced their lineup, I let my guard down," Wasilewski said. "I wasn't strong through their whole batting order and took a few things for granted."
Moments after the victory, she and her teammates hoisted the regional title trophy near home plate and celebrated in jubilant fashion.
It was Grant's first regional softball title since 1996, a fact that was not lost on coach Chris Van Alstine.
"It's been a long time since our program has been here," Van Alstine said. "When we played Jacobs last month, things didn't go as well for us. But today, when everything was on the line ... I'm not kidding when I say Shelby didn't miss a location the entire game. She was spectacular out there.
"When she's locked in, I'll take her over anybody out there. I mean that. Shelby's been in my softball camp since fifth grade, and I couldn't wait until she got to high school, because I knew what a special talent she was and is."
The No. 3-seeded Bulldogs got all the run support they needed in the bottom of the first, when Wasiliewski singled with two outs, followed by an RBI double off the center-field fence from junior cleanup hitter Hailie Feltner. A fielding error one batter later allowed Feltner to score, making it 2-0 early.
Grant (19-12-1) got its other two runs in the fourth. Sylvia Plucinski singled to right to lead off the inning. Abrianna Anderson and Caleigh Ahigren walked, which brought freshman leadoff hitter Kaylin Worley to the plate.
Worley plunked a sinking liner into center field, and despite a spectacular diving effort by Jacobs center fielder Clare Piazza, the ball bounced in and out of Piazza's glove for a two-RBI double, finishing the scoring.
No. 8-seeded Jacobs got a strong outing from junior starting pitcher Caitlin Cook. She allowed just five hits and struck out three, though she did yield three walks. Just one of them turned into a run.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, and the Golden Eagles down to their final out, Jacobs coach Katie O"Brien called upon the team's only senior, Jori Petrone, to pinch-hit.
"I have all the faith in the world in her, and even at that point, I told our kids, 'Jori's gonna put one over the fence,' " O'Brien said. "She's started other games, but she's been a great teammate and started plenty of games. Even though we went with a different lineup today, I wanted to give her the opportunity one last time."
Petrone lined out to second to end the game, ending the season for Jacobs (12-18).
"We have a lot of really talented softball players returning next season." O'Brien said. "I fully expect us to build off this a year from now and compete in our conference yet again. Hats off to Grant, we just couldn't get the bats going at all today."
Grant advances to a Class 4A Huntley Sectional semifinal, where it will face No. 1 seed Huntley (30-6) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.