The SPASH Panthers softball team started off their postseason march to a state title in encouraging fashion, recording 12 hits en route to their 9-0 wrecking of the Hudson Raiders.
It was a complete game for the Panthers. Aubrey Drohner was in the circle and pitched another gem, recording a shutout by striking out 10 Raiders and only walking one. She gave up just four hits.
“When you can throw your change up for a strike in any count, that makes you pretty tough. She was able to locate her fastball and we got her drop ball going a little bit just to get a change of pace,” said SPASH head coach Tom Drohner. “She did a really good job.”
Aubrey has been good all year; it’s the Panthers offense that has struggled at times, so it was a relief for coach Drohner when he saw his team jump to an early lead and extend it quickly.
“(Scoring early) gives you a big jolt of energy. Giving Aubrey a lead means we can go after it a bit more and take some chances. I was pumped when that happened,” said coach Drohner.
It took SPASH all of one inning to score their first two runs. Ally Miklesh, Maggie Gruber and Payton Gaber all reached on walks and Shaylee Kluck got two of her five RBI of the game on a single past third. She came up with batters on a repeatedly drove them in. Coach Drohner was highly impressed, but not surprised, by his third baseman’s play.
“She’s something else. She knows how to juice it up when she needs to. She plays unbelievable defense and for her to step up is no surprise to me, I see it every day in practice,” said coach Drohner. “She’s just a tremendous leader.”
Kluck talked about her mindset going into her at-bats and how all she needed to do was relax.
“All I was thinking about was bat to ball, getting runs in and being relaxed,” said Kluck.
It’s unclear whether every SPASH batter was trying to relax, but whatever they were doing was working as five of them recorded at least two hits in the game.
The hits didn’t come in one inning, either. In the third, Gaber doubled off the left center wall to bring in a run, Kluck grounded out to first but still got the RBI. Brittney Flugaur got one of her three hits and an RBI by smacking one back up the middle.
Raiders starting pitcher Jordan Little made it through four innings before being replaced by Kendra Little. Little gave up a run to Flugaur before being replaced by Katie Cardell.
SPASH scored again in the bottom of the sixth when Kluck roped one into center, scoring two.
“In the playoffs I always remembered big crowds that are always cheering so all I know is you have to be relaxed,” said Kluck.
Being in the playoffs is nothing new for the Panthers, but coach Drohner never entertained the idea of it becoming dull or underappreciated.
“This is what we play for. We had a really good season but if we don’t win our next game then were done. There’s something about the finality of it that we seem to feed off of,” said coach Drohner.
SPASH was led by a group of players offensively. Miklesh went 1 – 2 with two runs scored and two walks to go with Gruber’s 2 – 3 with three runs scored and a walk. Aubrey turned things around and wound up going 2 – 4 with two runs scored and Gaber went 2 – 3 with an RBI, a run scored and a double. Kluck batted 2 – 3 with five RBI and Flugaur went 3 – 4 with two RBI.
With the win the Panthers claimed the regional title once again, advancing to play the winner of Wisconsin Rapids and Superior in sectional play on Tuesday at home.
“It’ll be a tough challenge whether we play Rapids or Superior,” said coach Drohner. “If we play Rapids it will be a big time softball environment here with a lot of people. I’m looking forward to it if that is the case.”
WP: Drohner LP: J Little
2B: (SPASH) Gaber