AUSTIN - For the second time in four years, the Shiner Lady Comanches won the Class 1A state softball championship, but their biggest win came thanks to their last loss.
Shiner pitcher Ashley Shimek (center) receives congratulations on her selection as the Class 1A State Softball Tournament MVP after Shiner's victory over Grapeland in the State Championship game on Saturday in Austin. Victoria Advocate photo
After losing their District 28-1A opener to Ganado, Shiner coach Brandon Siegel made a change, going with senior Ashley Shimek as the Lady Comanches starting pitcher.
The change worked out. Shimek went a perfect 24-0 this season, including wins in Shiner's last 21 games to close out the year. Shimek was named the Class 1A state tournament's most valuable player in helping the Lady Comanches bring home their second state championship in four seasons.
"She stepped up, took charge and hadn't skipped a beat," Siegel said. "I couldn't ask anything more from a senior stepping up and leading her team to a state championship."
The Lady Comanches played their first district game on March 16 at Ganado and lost 12-6.
Prior to the loss the tall, athletic Shimek was the Lady Comanches' primary shortstop. The move to the pitcher circle gave freshman Kristin Schacherl to take over at short.
Although Shimek had been on the team as a back up pitcher, she played primarily as a shortstop.
She was called upon to become No. 1 pitcher and admitted it was an unlikely run of 24 wins without a blemish in the loss column.
"That's unbelievable, I never thought I'd actually be here," Shimek said about her perfect season.
Shimek was not only there, but her big game performances were big in helping Shiner bring home a state championship trophy.
"She puts her heart and soul into every single game," said junior infielder Ryah Michalec. "She's just an awesome pitcher."
After going through the district slate with only one loss the Lady Comanches met Ganado a third time in a district tie-breaker at the O'Connor Softball Complex on April 25.
In that game Shimek scattered seven hits and struck out 10 Maidens as the teams shared the District 28-1A championship, but Shiner was the top seed going into the playoffs.
Ashley Shimek by the numbers
2011 State Tournament
6 hits allowed
3 earned runs
12 innings pitched
In the semifinals Shimek allowed just four hits and three earned runs as the Lady Comanches routed Lindsay 16-4.
But Shimek saved her best performance for the finals against No. 4 Grapeland.
The game proved to be a pitchers duel as the Shimek and Grapeland starter Summer Groholski combined to allow only three hits going into the top of the sixth.
"She a great pitcher, and I knew it would be tough for both of us," Shimek said.
In the top of the sixth inning Schacherl and Michalec connected on back-to-back double to give Shiner a 1-0 lead.
Siegel said after the game he breathed a sigh of relief, but Shimek knew she had to hit her spots and finish strong in the final two innings.
"I had to step up myself and not allow any runs for us to win," Shimek said.
Shimek pitched a perfect final two innings and when Grapeland's Julie Riess grounded out the Lady Comanches clinched the title.
Even though she had a lot more experience since her time as a pinch runner on the 2008 Shiner State Championship, Shimek admitted there were some similarities.
"Even though I was just a pinch runner I was just as nervous," Shimek said.
If she was nervous before the game, she didn't show it during the state final.
Shimek allowed just two hits and struck out five batters. She didn't give up a hit after the third inning and didn't allow a runner to reach base after the fourth inning.
"She gets us through a lot and she leads us," Schacherl said.
While most softball players work for four years to make it to the state tournament, she concluded her high school career the way she came in, with a state championship.
"Not many kids get to experience this and I'm lucky," Shimek said.