SPASH softball looks to make another State Tournament run
After returning eight starters from last year, the Stevens
Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) softball team has its sights set on
advancing to the WIAA Division 1 State Tournament this season.
The Panthers brought back all but two starters from a year ago,
when they just missed out on a trip to state with a 4-3 loss to Chippewa Falls
in the Sectional Finals.
This season, seventh-ranked SPASH looked to remain alone at
the top of the Wisconsin Valley Conference (WVC) standings when it played at
D.C. Everest Tuesday, April 26, where junior pitcher Aubrey Drohner escaped a
bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh inning with back-to-back
strikeouts to close out a 4-3 win and improve the Panthers to 10-2 overall and
6-0 in the WVC.
“We’ve played a lot of really good teams, and when you play
a lot of really good teams, you’re not going to win every
game,” said SPASH softball head coach Tom Drohner. “Our goal is to be playing
our best softball at the end of the year, and I don’t think we’re even close to
that right now.
“But it’s a process, and our goal is to get there,” he said.
SPASH lost Second Team All-WVC outfielder Maggie Gruber and
second baseman Lizzy Fleeson from last season’s team that had its string of
four consecutive State Tournament appearances end when Chippewa Falls
rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh inning to pull out a 4-3 win
that ended the Panthers’ season at 24-5.
“We’ve got everybody else back, and it’s a team that’s
played a lot together,” said coach Drohner. “There are a lot of kids that have
“I like this team a lot,” he said. “We’ve just got to
continue to get better, and our chemistry is going to continue to improve as we
The Panthers are led at the top of the order by NCAA
Division 1 University of Wisconsin recruit, First Team All-WVC and Wisconsin
Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association (WFSCA) Second Team All-State sophomore
center fielder Ally Miklesh, 2014 First Team All-WVC and Second Team WFSCA All-State
senior catcher Jordan Kawlewski and two-time Unanimous First Team All-WVC and
2015 WVC co-Player of the Year junior pitcher Aubrey Drohner, who was named
Second Team All-State as a freshman and First Team All State last year as
Also returning in the middle of the lineup are Unanimous
First Team All-WVC and WFSCA Third Team All-State senior third baseman Shaylee
Kluck, who will play softball at National Junior College Athletic Association
Division II Kirkwood Community College (Iowa) next season, and Second Team
All-WVC senior first baseman Payton Gaber, who will play softball at NCAA
Division II Minnesota Moorhead next season.
“Ally’s our table setter, a great leadoff batter, one of the
top leadoff batters in the state, if not the top,” said coach Drohner. “Jordy
is a four-year starter behind the plate, Aubrey’s a three-year starter, Shaylee
is a four-year starter and then Payton is a three-year starter.
“So that right there in itself tells you we’ve got some
experience,” he said.
Sophomore Halle Pavelski has taken over in left field after
serving as a part-time starter last season, with Second Team All-WVC junior
right fielder Hannah Worzella and Second Team All-WVC junior Brittany Flugaur,
who moved from shortstop to second base this season, also returning as
starters, while senior Sierra Niewiadomski has served as the team’s shortstop
on defense this season.
has got a chance to be a superstar,” said coach Drohner. “Hannah is another
three-year starter, and then Fluggie is a two-year starter.
“Sierra’s a defensive specialist for us,” he said. “And then
we’ve got good kids coming off the bench that can hit the ball.”
Senior Hailey Ehr, junior Brooke Tuszka, junior outfielder
Megan Nolan, senior first baseman Morgan Dobratz, senior outfielder Kelsey
Shuda, senior catcher Riley Terpstra, senior Elizabeth Joseph, senior
outfielder Riley Zempel and sophomore catcher Rachel Sullivan are also in the
mix for playing time for the Panthers, while sophomore pitcher Maddie Fink and
Gaber have both seen time in the circle behind Aubrey Drohner.
“We’ve got a lot of good players,” said coach Drohner. “And
we have 11 seniors, so there are a lot of seniors there.”
SPASH opened this season with a 24-0 win over Wausau East
April 5 and followed with victories over Wausau West (24-0), Marshfield (4-0) and 10th-ranked and 2015
Division 1 State Runner-up Watertown (13-0).
The Panthers then beat Zion-Benton (Ill.) (2-1) and Beaver Dam (2-1) at the
Wilmot Invitational April 16, where they lost to second-ranked and defending
Division 1 State Champion Westosha Central (10-1) 14-0.
SPASH came back with wins last week over Wisconsin Rapids
(14-5) April 19 and Merrill (12-3) April 21, and split a pair of games at Woyak
Park Saturday, April 23, as the Panthers beat 2015 Division 1 State
Semifinalist DeForest 12-2 and lost to fifth-ranked Hortonville 6-0.
“Westosha got on us early, we didn’t throw Aubrey in that
game, hoping that we can kind of hide her away from them a little bit,” said
coach Drohner. “And then Hortonville got on us. It was probably our worst game,
we didn’t play very well, but it is what it is.
“You go out and play good teams, and sometimes if you’re not
at the top of your game, they’re going to bite you,” he said. “We’ve 10-runned
some really good teams in the past, and it’s just one of those deals where,
this is a game that on any given day, anybody can beat anybody if you’re
That left SPASH at 9-2 overall and 5-0 in the WVC heading into
its matchup Tuesday at D.C. Everest (6-4, 3-1), which needed a win to pull even
with the Panthers in the loss column at the top of the conference standings.
Everest struck first Tuesday, as it used a single, a walk
and a hit batter in the bottom of the first inning to load the bases with one
out, and then scored on a fielder’s choice groundout to take a 1-0 lead.
It stayed that way until the top of the third inning, when
Worzella led off with a single and Miklesh hit a one-out fly ball over the head
of the Everest center fielder for a RBI triple to tie the game at 1-1.
Miklesh came around to score on a sacrifice fly from
Kawlewski to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead, but Everest answered in the bottom
of the third inning with a two-out walk and back-to-back singles to score a run
and tie the game at 2-2.
SPASH responded in the top of the fourth inning, when Gaber
hit a one-out, solo home run over the right-field fence to give the team a 3-2
“That was pretty awesome right there,” said coach Drohner.
“I’m just proud of her.”
The Panthers carried their 3-2 lead into the top of the
seventh inning, where Miklesh reached on an error with two outs, stole second
base and scored on a RBI single up the middle from Kawlewski to go up 4-2.
Everest mounted another comeback in the bottom of the
seventh, as it led off with a single down the third-base line and reached on an
error to put runners on first and second base with nobody out, while a
sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out.
Everest followed with a RBI single up the middle to score
one run and close within 4-3, which put the tying run on third base and the
go-ahead run on second base, before senior and No. 2 hitter Ally Dzurka drew a
walk to load the bases with one out for the middle of the order.
That brought up Second Team All-WVC senior catcher Lauren
Brinkman, who worked a full count against Aubrey Drohner and fouled off 10
pitches during her 15-pitch at bat, before Aubrey Drohner struck her out
swinging for the second out of the inning.
Everest followed with cleanup hitter and First Team All-WVC
junior shortstop Maggie
Plaza, who Aubrey
Drohner struck out on a 1-2 pitch to give SPASH a 4-3 win.
Gaber was 2-for-3 with a home run and Kawlewski went 2-for-3
with two RBI and two stolen bases to lead the offense, while Aubrey Drohner
allowed two earned runs on four hits, walked three and struck out 12 in the
“Aubrey beared down at the end,” said coach Drohner of his
daughter. “There was the 15-pitch at bat, and she did a great job of just
continuing to pump the strike zone, and I’m extremely proud of her.
“It’s a big win,” he said. “It creates a little more
separation between us and Everest. They’ve got a really good team, and for us
to come here and beat them on their home field is huge for us.”
The Panthers are set to travel to play at Wausau East at Thursday, April 28, and
then will host the SPASH Invitational at Woyak Park at 10 a.m. Saturday, April
30, where the four-team field will also include 2015 Division 1 State
Semifinalist Bay Port, fourth-ranked Kaukauna and fifth-ranked Chippewa Falls.
The Panthers, who won their 18th consecutive WVC Title last
season, will then resume conference play, as they hold the lead at the top of
the standings over Merrill (4-1) and Everest (3-2) at the halfway point of the
“We’re sitting in a pretty good spot right now,” said coach
Drohner. “We’ve got to play Everest and Merrill and Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids again, and it’ll give us a
“But I’d rather be where we’re at than where everybody else
is,” he said.
With a nonconference schedule that also includes the
Chippewa Falls Invitational May 14, SPASH will look to be playing its best
softball down the stretch, as it hopes to return to Madison this season after making 12 State
Tournament appearances in the last 16 years.
“If we can get down to the State Tournament, it’s not who’s
the best team, it’s who’s hot at the right time,” said coach Drohner, who has
guided the Panthers to seven State Titles. “And especially in this game,
because it takes one great pitching performance, some bad at bats, and next
thing you know you’re in the seventh inning, and you can win a ballgame.
“We’re in the upper echelon (in the state), we’re a Top 10
team, but there’s some elite teams out there,” he said. “And our goal is to get
ourselves in that category.”