Perfect ending


AUSTIN - Defense wins championships, or so the old saying goes. Such was the case for the Shiner Lady Comanches Saturday as a strong defensive effort, coupled with another amazing performance from senior pitcher Ashley Shimek, led to a 1-0 win over Grapeland in the Class 1A state softball championship.

With the win, Shimek put the finishing touches on Shiner’s first-ever perfect season from a pitcher, as she finished the season 24-0.

“I’ve loved softball all of my life and to win a title playing with two of my best friends is incredible,” said Shimek. “We had such an amazing year and had so much fun together, I’ve loved every moment of it. Not many kids get to experience this and all I can say is that I am lucky to be a part of it. It’s awesome. I never dreamed of this.”

It was a pitcher’s duel all the way Saturday as neither team scored through the first six innings of play. Shiner scored the only run of the contest in the top of the sixth inning as Kristin Schacherl reached second base with one out when Grapeland left fielder Kalee Walker misplayed a foul ball. A passed ball allowed Schacherl to advance to third before a double to left by Ryah Michalec drove in Schacherl for the only run of the contest.

“I was struggling at the beginning with my hitting, but I had confidence in myself and I knew I could hit that ball really well,” Michalec said about her game-winning hit. “I had been fouling it off a lot, but it was pitched right down the middle and I knew if I connected it would go.”

Shimek sent the final six Grapeland batters down in order to finish out the game and earn Shiner its fourth Class 1A softball title since 2001.

Grapeland pitcher Summer Groholski also had an outstanding game in the championship contest, matching Shimek almost pitch-for-pitch. The two opposing pitchers combined to allow just five hits in the contest as Groholski allowed three while Shimek gave up just two. Groholski also struck out 10 batters to Shimek’s five.

Errors cost Grapeland down the stretch, though, as the Sandiettes committed three miscues while the Comanches played error-free ball.

“Summer’s a great athlete,” Shiner head coach Brandon Siegel said after the game. “I could tell by the look on her face that she started to get a little bit tired late in the game, just like Ashley did. That’s when it’s all about adrenaline and who’s going to dig down and compete. Ashley did a great job of that, we got a couple of timely hits and that was the difference in the ball game.”

Even Shimek had only good things to say about her opposing pitcher after the game.

“She was an outstanding pitcher. We haven’t seen anyone like her all season, so that’s probably what kept the game so close,” she said.

For Shimek and the Lady Comanches, it was the perfect ending to a somewhat strange season as an early-season pitching move literally worked to perfection.

After three years of playing shortstop and backup pitcher, Shimek was moved into the pitcher’s circle full time in mid March and then finished the season without a loss.

“Our last loss was March 16. We decided to make a change at pitcher after that and Ashley really stepped up and took charge and she hasn’t been beat,” Siegel said. “I never would have guessed and my assistant coaches never would have guessed she would have a 24-0 record from that point and time.  You couldn’t ask any more from a senior. She stepped up and led her team back to the state championship.”

According to Shimek, the success of her and the rest of her teammates is the product of a lot of hard work.

“I never thought I would actually be here,” she said. “I’ve always had the mechanics and known how to pitch. This year, I just had to work my butt off to be even stronger for us. We have been dominant all season, pretty much. We were run ruling people in our district and then making it through the games in the playoffs. It’s just unbelievable that all of the hard work has finally paid off. I’m so excited and so proud of everybody.”

The only trouble spot for the Comanches came in the bottom of the third inning against Grapeland as Sydney Gayle reached base with one out after being hit by a Shimek pitch. A sacrifice bunt moved Gayle to third with two outs but Shimek got Jalla Johnson to fly out to Megan Chumchal in left field to end the inning.

Neither team managed more than a single baserunner in any other inning except the sixth, when Shiner scored the only run of the contest.

Shimek picked up 1A tournament MVP honors after the title game after she finished the two games with a 1.17 ERA after giving up four runs (two earned) in 12 innings of work. Shimek struck out 13 and walked only four batters at the tournament.

It was a record-breaking tournament for Shiner all around and the Lady Comanches became the first team in UIL softball history to win four state titles (2001, 2002, 2008, 2011).

Shiner also set a new Class 1A state tournament record for the most runs scored by a team in a single game with their 16-4 win over Albany in Thursday’s state semi-final. The combined score of 20 runs was also a 1A record.

The four-hit performance by Holly Haas in Thursday’s game tied the 1A record for most hits by a single player in one game at the tournament, tying Shiner’s Melissa Boedeker’s performance from 2001. The combined five hits in both games by Haas was second-best in the history of Class 1A at the tournament, behind Boekeker’s six in 2001. Haas also finished with the fifth-best batting average in Class a in the history of the tournament, going 5-7 (.714).

Shiner’s eight-run second inning against Albany Thursday was also the second-highest scoring inning by a 1A team in the history of the tournament, just one behind the eight runs scored in an inning by the 2008 Shiner squad.

Along with Haas, Shiner had two other players bat over .300 at the tournament as Jordan Pietsch finished 2-4 (.500) while Schacherl was 2-6 (.333).

With only three seniors graduating from this state title team (Shimek, Haas and Amber Ramirez), the Comanches should be ready to make another strong run at the title in 2012.

“Shiner is just known for dominating and winning and everybody is afraid of us,” Shimek said. “They will continue to be afraid of us in the future, I guess.”