SPASH softball prepared for another run
By John Kemmeter
Following its sixth trip to the WIAA Division 1 State Tournament in seven years, the Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) softball team will look to contend with the top teams in the state again this season.
The Panthers return six starters from last season’s team that finished 24-6 overall after they lost 3-0 in the WIAA Division 1 State Semifinals to eventual State Champion Kaukauna.
SPASH opened this season with doubleheader sweep at Janesville Craig Friday, March 30, and is scheduled to play Green Bay Preble and Kimberly in a pair of games at Kimberly Saturday, April 7.
“Coming into the season, I’m excited about us getting the opportunity to strut our stuff a little bit, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” said Drohner. “A strength of ours is going to be pitching and offense, and those are two big areas to be good at, so hopefully we’ll come around.
“I always worry about the defense early on, and we always seem to find a way to amp it up a little bit,” he said. “And I think this year won’t be any different.”
SPASH lost 2016 co-Division 1 State Player of the Year and four-time All-State pitcher/shortstop Aubrey Drohner, First Team All-Wisconsin Valley Conference (WVC) shortstop/second baseman Brittany Flugaur, Second Team All-WVC first baseman Brooke Tuszka and second baseman Becky Kurszewski from last year’s team that advanced to the State Semifinals after it won the 2016 State Title.
The Panthers are led by the return of three-time All-State senior center fielder and NCAA Division 1 University of Wisconsin recruit Ally Miklesh, Second Team All-WVC senior right fielder Halle Pavelski and Second Team All-WVC senior pitcher/first baseman Andrea Cherney.
“Ally is going to be one of the favorites for the Gatorade Player of the Year,” said coach Drohner. “Just an outstanding softball player all the way around, not only a great table setter, but a great outfielder, and has been for four years for us.
“Halle is a four-year varsity player and has had a ton of big hits for our program, in our State Championship run in 2016 she hit a big three-run homer in the State Championship Game, her confidence really showed last year and I’m really looking for her to have a big senior year,” he said. “Andrea took over as our ace later in the year and pitched some really big ballgames for us last year and was a bulldog out there, and I’m really excited for her senior year, both as a pitcher and offensively.”
Second Team All-WVC junior third baseman Kayla Lass and sophomore catcher Sammy Saloun also return as starters, along with junior Megan Miklesh, who moved from left field to second base this season.
“Kayla’s got some pop in her bat, last year she was getting used to the varsity experience, but I really feel like she’s ready to take the next step offensively, and defensively, she’s as good as there is,” said coach Drohner. “Sammy is one of the top catchers in the state that nobody really knows about, she blasted on the scene last year and she’s got a high ceiling, she’s going to be our No. 3 hitter early on, and I think she’s got the potential to hit nine, 10 home runs.
“Megan is one of our best athletes and I think she’s ready to take that next step, she’s worked to improve her offense, and that really came out in the first couple of games,” he said.
Senior Maddie Fink will rotate with Cherney between first base and pitcher after she missed last season due to a torn ACL, while senior Carly Fix has taken over at shortstop, with senior Jenna Bohanski and freshman Jenna Eilers both seeing time in left field.
“Maddie is hungry after not being able to play last year, she’s one of our best offensive players, and as a pitcher, she changes speeds real well and she probably has the best spin on the team, as far as her ball moving,” said Drohner. “Carly has put a lot of time into our program, she makes all of the routine plays and is a great kid, and it’s really her position, as long as she keeps playing the way she’s played early on.
“Jenna Bohanski’s going to help us in one way or another, whether it’s playing in the outfield, whether it’s running the bases, she can do a lot of things for you, so if she plays the way I think she can play, it’s going to be hard to get her out of the lineup,” he said. “And Jenna Eilers is a big-time talent, she’s a lot like Ally Miklesh, as far as she can go get it in the outfield, she can slap for power, she can finesse you a little bit, she can lay down bunts, and then she’s going to create havoc when she’s on the bases. It’s up to her to decide what kind of role she has, I think she has the ability to be an every-day player and be a big contributor in our lineup, and only time will tell.”
Also in the mix for playing time this season are junior second baseman/pitcher Kristin Richter, junior third baseman Berkley Lake, junior outfielder Avery Drohner, junior outfielder Ashley Schrank, sophomore pitcher/first baseman Jaden Jones, sophomore shortstop/third baseman Leah Earnest, sophomore second baseman Kennedy VanderLoop and sophomore third baseman/shortstop Maggie Lawrynk.
“We’ve got some young kids that are vying for spots,” said coach Drohner. “I’m really excited for the season and the opportunity for us to continue to get better.”
Last season SPASH won the Wisconsin Valley Conference (WVC) Title for the 18th year in a row, while coach Drohner expects that it will be a tight race for the Conference Title this spring.
“Marshfield’s going to be a great challenge for us, they’ve been building for this year the whole time, and they’ve got some really good athletes,” said Drohner. “It’s going to be tough for us, but I like to think we pose a little bit of a challenge for them as well.
“Wisconsin Rapids will be much improved, D.C. Everest is always good, Wausau West has some good athletes, and Merrill is very well coached,” he said. “We’ve just got to go about it one game at a time, and hopefully get opportunities to kind of strut our stuff a little bit.”
SPASH will get a chance to play a number of the top teams in the state during its nonconference, which includes the SPASH Invitational at Woyak Park in Plover April 28 and the Chippewa Falls Invitational May 12, while coach Drohner said the team’s goals remain the same every year.
“You break it up into little parts, and our goal is to win our conference, first and foremost,” said Drohner. “But along the way we want to improve, and I think if we win our conference, we’re going to put ourselves in a good situation to win the Regional.
“And once you win the Regional and get to the Sectional, then it’s ‘go’ time,” he said. “We want the Sectional Title, get a bid to state, and just to get hot at the right time.”