SPASH softball falls in Sectional Final
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
For the second year in a row, the Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) softball team had its postseason come to an end against Chippewa Falls in the Sectional Finals.
With a trip to the WIAA Division 1 State Tournament on the line, 11th-ranked and seventh-seeded Chippewa Falls (20-7) broke a 0-0 tie with a two-run home run in the top of the fourth inning and went on to a 3-0 win over the seventh-ranked and top-seeded Panthers at D.C. Everest Thursday, May 30, to end SPASH’s season at 21-8.
“I just don’t think we were able to capitalize on opportunities,” said SPASH senior third baseman Kayla Lass. “And that’s just kind of how we lost it.”
“We’ve got to give them credit, they made all the plays they needed to do,” said SPASH softball head coach Tom Drohner. “We hit the ball at them hard multiple times, and any time you thought you got something going, they shut the door on it.”
Thursday marked the eighth time in the last 11 years that SPASH and Chippewa Falls met in either the Sectional Final or State Tournament, as the Panthers held a 5-2 advantage following a 4-1 loss to Chippewa Falls in the Sectional Final a year ago.
SPASH looked to strike first Thursday night, as it loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the first inning, but Chippewa Falls got back-to-back strikeouts and a pop out to first base to end the threat.
“That first inning was an opportunity to bust the game open early and give us the momentum,” said Drohner. “And for us not to score a run there really kind of deflated us a little bit, and obviously I thought it gave them momentum too.”
The Panthers had runners on first and second base with one out in the bottom of the second inning and were unable to get a run in, while junior pitcher Jaden Jones carried a no-hitter into the top of the fourth inning, as the score remained 0-0.
Chippewa Falls led off the fourth with a single, and one out later, senior first baseman Abby Staves hit a two-run home run to center field to give the team a 2-0 lead.
“The thing that stinks is, we had all of these opportunities early, and then all of a sudden they punch us in the mouth,” said Drohner. “Jaden pitched really well, she was in command of her pitches, had a walk early but then she settled in and did a nice job.
“I was really proud of the way she pitched, she pitched good enough to win,” he said.
SPASH had a runner on second with one out in the bottom of the fourth but came up empty, while Chippewa Falls led off the top of the fifth with a double and had a one-out RBI single to increase its lead to 3-0.
The Panthers were unable to capitalize on a leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth inning from sophomore center fielder Jenna Eilers, or a two-out double from senior second baseman and NCAA Division 1 University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) recruit Megan Miklesh in the bottom of the sixth inning, as they trailed 3-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh.
There, junior left fielder Maddie Kvatek led off with a single, but Chippewa got a strikeout and back-to-back flyouts to center field to advance to state with a 3-0 win.
“You have to give it to them, we have to tip our caps and say ‘good job’ to them,” said senior designated hitter Berkley Lake. “We killed the ball half the time, and it was just, they were right there to make the play.”
Kvatek went 2-for-3, and Miklesh and junior catcher and UWGB recruit Sammy Saloun each had a double to lead the SPASH offense, which finished with six hits, while Jones took the loss after she struck out four, walked two and allowed three earned runs on seven hits over seven innings.
The loss was the final game for SPASH’s six seniors in Megan Miklesh, Lass, Lake, Avery Drohner, Kristin Richter and Ashley Schrank, who helped the team win its 20th consecutive Wisconsin Valley Conference Title this season.
“SPASH softball just opened up so many doors for me,” said Megan Miklesh. “The competitive environment really shaped me to be the player I am, and really made me want to play college softball more.
“It’s a surreal environment all of the time, and coach Drohner and coach (Todd) VanderLoop are two of the best coaches you could ever have,” she said.
“We’ve come a long way,” said coach Drohner. “We’ve gotten better throughout the year, I thought early on we were just OK, and then I think we developed into a Conference Championship team, a team that won Regionals, and a team that had an opportunity to go to state.
“And for that I’m very proud of them,” he said.