Auseth, Central grad, takes over Demons softball program

By Jason Arndt

Valerie Auseth’s passion for softball runs deep.

Valerie Auseth

Auseth, a Wheatland native, remembers playing softball, or baseball, with her sister and two brothers in their backyard as a child.

The sport has been ingrained in her since, playing softball at Westosha Central High School and later garnering All-American honors at Division 3 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

At UW-Whitewater, where she played for the Warhawks from 1996-1999, Auseth was also named the WIAC East Division Player of the Year twice and earned All-Conference recognition three times.

She helped carry the Warhawks to WIAC titles, two league tournament titles, and three NCAA tournament berths.

Auseth, who re-wrote the UW-Whitewater record books in multiple categories, was later inducted in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014.

Married to former Burlington baseball player Todd Auseth, Valerie now has four children and has been a Burlington High School physical education teacher for 10 years.

The physical education teacher, meanwhile, has also been a club softball coach with Burlington Blast the last seven years.

Auseth, however, is ready to take the next step as the new varsity softball head coach at Burlington High School.

She takes over for Gary Caliva, who retired at the end of last year, when the Demons made their first WIAA Division 1 state appearance in three decades and captured a Southern Lakes Conference title.

Caliva was a head softball coach for two years at Whitnall High School before spending the last seven at Burlington.

A lifelong passion
Auseth, looking back at her childhood, felt it was time to seize the opportunity.

“We have been playing baseball and softball since we were little with our dad in the backyard,” said Auseth, who recalled tossing the ball around with brothers Ryan and Tom, along with sister, Megan.

“It is just a love, it is just an absolute love that we have, a passion. This is such a great opportunity for me, I couldn’t pass it up.”

Auseth, also known as Valerie Kerkman, admits taking over for a team that finished as state runner-up comes with high expectations.

While there are high expectations, Auseth believes she is up to the task, and said she is more than willing to tackle the challenge.

“I think there are a lot of expectations, but I am excited for it, and I am up to the challenge,” she said. “I have a great coaching staff behind me, Gary Caliva is still going to be working with me, and has been an amazing mentor to me so far.”

Meanwhile, Auseth said coaching against her former school, Westosha Central, will carry additional meaning.

The significance is compounded by the fact her niece, Kayla, just graduated in June when she was named the top infielder/catcher by Kayla stole a school record 23 bases as a senior and now plays for Division 2 Winona State University.

Westosha games will mean more
“I have been with Burlington for so long now,” said Auseth. “That will probably be one of the most emotional games we will play, just because I have played there, and still know quite a few people there, especially since my niece just finished playing there.”

As Auseth looks ahead to the season, she acknowledged it will be difficult to replace some key players from last year, like Josie Klein and Jaina Westphal.

Despite the losses, Auseth expects to see other players such as Maddie Berezowitz, Emily Zuleger, Bridi Allen, Alex Naber and Gracie Peterson step up.

“It is going to be kind of a rebuilding year for us, I have lost anywhere from seven to nine girls from the varsity team,” she said. “I have some great returners coming back, a great group of girls just ready to step up and they are excited for the opportunity.”

As for her coaching mantra, Auseth looks to create chaos on the base paths, stressing aggressive base running.

Additionally, she places an emphasis on defensive fundamentals.

“My goal is to get those girls into positions where they can be successful,” she said.


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