Sixth-inning rally sends SPASH softball to Sectional Final
The third-ranked Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH)
softball team used a late-inning rally to move one win away from advancing to
the WIAA Division 1 State Tournament.
The top-seeded Panthers were tied 0-0 with fourth-seeded and
12th-ranked D.C. Everest entering the bottom of the sixth inning of their WIAA
Division 1 Sectional Semifinal at Fire Pro Field at Woyak Park Tuesday, May 31,
when sophomore left fielder Halle Pavelski had a RBI single and junior
designated player Brooke Tuszka followed with a grand slam to power the team to
a 5-0 victory.
SPASH (25-3) is set to face third-seeded Hudson (19-7) in a WIAA Division 1 Sectional
Final at Marshfield
at Thursday, June 2,
with the winner to advance to the WIAA Division 1 State Quarterfinals at
Goodman Diamond in Madison
at Thursday, June 9.
“Coming in we knew we had to play our best, and we just
couldn’t give anything less than our best,” said Pavelski. “And it feels so
good to win, especially in a close game like that.”
“We’ve got one more to go through, but I think we can do it,”
said Tuszka. “We just need to play our game like I know we will.
“We’re starting to really click and play well together,” she
said. “We have really good team chemistry, and it’s really starting to gel for
After missing out on a trip to the State Tournament last year
following a 4-3 loss to eventual State Semifinalist Chippewa Falls in the
Sectional Finals, the Panthers won the Wisconsin Valley Conference (WVC) Title
this season for the 19th year in a row dating back to 1998, and then opened the
postseason with a 12-2 win at home in six innings over Wisconsin Rapids in a
Regional Final Friday, May 27.
That set up a showdown in the Sectional Semifinals against
Everest, which SPASH beat 5-0 at home in the regular-season finale May 19 and 4-3
on the road April 26 when the Panthers escaped a bases-loaded jam with one out
in the bottom of the seventh inning.
In the Sectional Semifinal Tuesday, the Panthers had a
runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings but were unable
to capitalize, while SPASH junior pitcher and 2016 WVC Player of the Year Aubrey
Drohner didn’t allow an Everest baserunner past first base through the first
five innings, as the game remained tied 0-0 heading into the top of the sixth
There, Everest reached on an error to lead off the inning
and used a sacrifice bunt to put a runner on second base with one out, before Aubrey
Drohner struck out No. 3 hitter and Unanimous First Team All-WVC junior pitcher
Miranda Gajewski and First Team All-WVC junior second baseman Maggie Plazza in
back-to-back at bats to end the threat.
“You just have to have that mentality that your team is the
one that’s going to get it done,” said Aubrey Drohner. “And as a pitcher, I was
not going to let all 11 seniors down today on our home field.
“I wanted them to finish it off on a good note on our home
field,” she said. “It was a little nerve-racking, but that’s playoffs.”
SPASH First Team All-WVC senior catcher Jordan Kawlewski led
off the bottom of sixth inning with a groundball that went off the glove of
Everest senior shortstop Ally Dzurka on a diving attempt and trickled toward
the left-field grass, as Kawlewski hustled into second base and slid ahead of
the throw for a leadoff double.
After Kawlewski advanced to third on a groundout from Aubrey
Drohner for the first out of the inning, Everest intentionally walked First
Team All-WVC senior third baseman Shaylee Kluck and Unanimous First Team
All-WVC senior first baseman Payton Gaber to load the bases for Honorable
Mention All-WVC sophomore left fielder Pavelski.
“I was nervous, but then I figured, ‘I’ve just got to do
what I’ve got to do and be a player and make a play,’ like coach always says,”
said Pavelski. “I had to get up there, get my pitch, and just swing at it as
hard as I can, just to make something happen.
“And that’s what happened,” she said.
Pavelski followed with a groundball that went off the glove
of Dzurka on another diving attempt, as Kawlewski scored on the RBI single to
give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
“I was really pumped,” said Pavelski. “I started fist
pumping, and normally I don’t do that, but it was super exciting.
“I was just happy that we got a run in and could take the
lead,” she said.
“When you get a kid like that who’s having a great year for
us, to be in that situation against one of the top pitchers in the state and to
come through, that’s just going to give her all kinds of confidence,” said SPASH
softball head coach Tom Drohner. “The best part is we have her another couple
of years, and she’s going to be great for us.”
With the bases still loaded and one out, Tuszka stepped to
the plate in the next at bat and hit a 2-2 pitch over the fence in left-center
field for a grand slam to give SPASH a 5-0 lead.
“When I was up to bat, I really had a clear mind, and I was
just like, ‘I’ve got to swing at my pitch,’” said Tuszka, who also hit a
two-out double off the middle of the fence in the bottom of the second inning
that just missed being a home run. “And it was really a fun moment to take in.
“To be honest, I wasn’t even watching the ball,” she said.
“I just saw everyone running out and I was just enjoying the moment.”
“I knew it was gone when she hit it,” said coach Drohner.
“She squared up on a ball, and she’s been doing that a lot lately in practice,
that’s why she’s gotten more opportunities.
“And I’m just really, super proud of her,” he said.
Aubrey Drohner retired Everest in order in the top of the
seventh inning to close out the 5-0 win, as she struck out six and walked one
in a two-hit shutout.
“That was a really big team win,” said Aubrey Drohner. “I
have so much confidence in our team right now, and we have great team
“We all believed in each other,” she said. “And I think
that’s why we got the win today.”
“She pitched her butt off,” said coach Drohner of his
daughter. “She wiggled herself out of jams a couple of times, and we made a
couple of nice plays (on defense), and she’s always been that way.
“She’s played in a lot of big games, and she knows how to do
that, so just give her a ton of credit,” he said. “It’s a great team win for
us, and I’m just proud of our kids.”
In the Sectional Final, the Panthers are set to face Hudson,
which beat seventh-seeded Marshfield 2-1 in eight innings in the Sectional
Semifinals Tuesday, after Marshfield upset second-seeded and ninth-ranked Chippewa
Falls 11-8 in the Regional Finals Friday, May 27.
The winner between SPASH and Hudson will advance to the WIAA
Division 1 State Quarterfinals next Thursday morning to face either
fifth-seeded Kenosha Tremper, which knocked off top-seeded and seventh-ranked Greenfield
2-1 in the Sectional Semifinals, or sixth-seeded Kenosha Bradford/Reuther,
which upset second-seeded and 16th-ranked Oak Creek 4-0 in the Sectional
“No matter what, we’ve got to play our best,” said Pavelski
of the Sectional Final. “Last year, that was the game we almost won, and we’ve
just got to get back there (to Madison).
“And I’m so happy, because I just want the opportunity to go
to state for our team,” she said.
“All we want to do is win this game, so we have an
opportunity to go down to the State Tournament,” said coach Drohner, who has
led SPASH to seven State Titles and 12 State Tournament appearances in the last
16 years. “When you get down to the State Tournament, it’s who’s hot.
“Right now, we’re playing pretty good softball,” he said.
“And we want to keep doing that.”