Father, daughter share in SPASH’s State Championship
Already with more State Titles than any other high school softball
coach in Wisconsin history, State Championship
No. 8 was extra special for Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) head
coach Tom Drohner.
Helping lead the way for the Panthers this season was his
oldest daughter, junior pitcher Aubrey Drohner, who had grown up watching SPASH
win seven State Titles under her father.
In her second trip to state as a player, Aubrey earned the
win in the circle in each of SPASH’s three wins at the WIAA Division 1 State
Tournament at Goodman Diamond in Madison Thursday through Saturday, June 9-11,
and also went 3-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and three RBI, as the
Panthers beat Watertown 16-4 in the State Championship Game Saturday to capture
the State Title.
“I waited for a really long time,” said Aubrey. “There’s a
picture from 2001 of me sitting with the (State Championship) trophy, and I
actually was about the same height as the trophy.
“There were some more pictures, and I was looking back at
them and showing my friends, and I was like, ‘I want to win one with you
guys,’” she said. “And we did it.
“And it’s just a great feeling to finally win one with my
dad,” she said.
“It’s an unbelievable experience for me as a father and her
coach, to be able to live it with her,” said coach Drohner. “She’s a pretty
special talent, and I’m glad that she’s been able to be coachable and be a
“That’s the most important thing to me,” he said.
Aubrey was a toddler when the Panthers won their first State
Title under her father in 2001 and grew up around the program at practices and games,
while she later served as a team manager when she was in junior high school.
As a freshman in 2014, Aubrey earned a spot on varsity for
the Panthers and took over as the team’s top pitcher, but it isn’t always easy
being the coach’s daughter.
“It’s been hard,” said Aubrey. “People think it’s all
sunshine and rainbows all the time, but I definitely have to work.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” she said. “But he’s such a
“People don’t understand the pressure that she is under,”
said coach Drohner. “And only her and I know.
“There are a lot of critics out there,” he said. “But she’s
always proven them wrong.”
As a freshman, Aubrey went on to be named First Team
All-Wisconsin Valley Conference (WVC) and Second Team All-State by the
Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association (WFSCA), while she helped SPASH
advance to the Division 1 State Tournament, where they fell 6-4 to eventual
State Champion Kimberly in the State Quarterfinals to finish 24-6 overall.
As a sophomore last season, she was named Unanimous First
Team All-WVC, the WVC co-Player of the Year and First Team All-State by the
WFSCA, as the Panthers moved on to the Sectional Finals to face Chippewa Falls.
With a trip to the State Tournament on the line, SPASH was
down 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Aubrey hit a two-run home run
to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead.
Falls rallied for three
runs in the top of the seventh to go up 4-2, and held off a SPASH rally in the
bottom of the seventh to win 4-3 and end the Panthers’ season at 24-5.
“Seeing the seniors, that was probably the worst part of
it,” said Aubrey. “Sending them off to college, knowing that we weren’t able to
make one of our goals, I felt terrible.
“And it kind of gave us a little bit of something to look
forward to this year,” she said. “And we capitalized on an opportunity that was
given to us.”
This season as a junior she repeated as a Unanimous First
Team All-WVC selection and was named the WVC Player of the Year, with the WFSCA
All-State Team set to be announced later this week, while she helped the
third-ranked Panthers return to the State Tournament last weekend.
In the State Quarterfinals, she hit a two-run home run at
the plate and allowed two earned runs over seven innings to pick up the win in
an 8-3 victory over Kenosha Tremper, and then went 2-for-4 with three RBI at
the plate and allowed three earned runs on five hits to record the win in a
10-3 victory over fourth-ranked Pulaski in the State Semifinals.
In the State Championship Game, Watertown scored three runs in the bottom of
the first inning, two of them unearned, to take a 3-1 lead.
With a run in already for the Panthers in the top of the
third inning to pull them within 3-2, Aubrey stepped to the plate with one out
and runners on the corners and delivered a two-run double to left-center field
to give the Panthers the lead for good at 4-3.
SPASH added a three-run home run from sophomore left fielder
Halle Pavelski later in the inning to go up 7-3 and rolled the rest of the way to
a 16-4 victory, as Aubrey struck out one and walked two to earn the win in the
circle after she allowed two earned runs on 11 hits, while she was 3-for-4 with
two doubles and three RBI at the plate.
“She had a lot of jitters early on, and I think that she was
able to battle through those,” said coach Drohner. “And once she did that, she
settled in and pitched a good game.”
“Every coach will tell you, when you coach your own kid it’s
hard, especially when she’s a pitcher,” said SPASH assistant coach Todd
VanderLoop, who has been on the team’s staff alongside coach Drohner for each
of the eight State Titles. “But it was fun to be part of it and watch those two
accomplish the goals that they set forth, since she could barely even stand
next to the trophy.
“She works so hard, and she just takes so much pressure on
herself,” he said. “And she just keeps taking it head on and accomplishing
After the final out of the State Championship Game, Aubrey celebrated
on the field with her teammates, before she met up with her father near the first
base line, where the two shared a long hug.
“Winning with your best friends, it’s honestly the best
thing and the best feeling I’ve ever had,” said Aubrey. “I’m so proud of them.
Our team chemistry was just unbelievable, and I think that’s what brought us
together and won us a State Championship.
“And it’s not only a great team experience; it’s a great
family experience,” said Aubrey. “This was one of my goals, and I told my dad
that when I was just starting pitching.”
“It’s phenomenal,” said coach Drohner. “I’ve been sitting on
a bucket a long time and I’ve been giving her a lot of batting practice over
the years, and the whole thing was the idea, ‘maybe one day she’d get an
opportunity to do this.’
“And for her to be a huge part of winning a State
Championship,” he said. “It couldn’t make me prouder.”