Most teams in the state know the SPASH Panthers’ softball program.
They know how they play, they know their legend and they know they will be tough every year. Less is known about the Superior Spartans, who always seem to swoop into the postseason with a good record and, well, that’s basically all they know; it creates a tough task from a preparation standpoint.
SPASH, however, showed that you don’t need to know every little secret about a team to beat them handily as they trounced the Spartans 9 – 0 to advance to the sectional finals.
“We were fortunate. We were able to talk to some people and get a decent scouting report. They didn’t bunt as much as we thought they were going to but I think we were prepared for it,” said SPASH head coach Tom Drohner.
SPASH was on point defensively the whole game. Their infield was a net that snagged anything they could get a glove on, and every player showed off their arm strength.
Numerous times third basemen Shaylee Kluck fielded a grounder or a bunt and ripped it down to first for the out. Shortstop Brittney Flugaur was equally impressive, displaying her range as well as her cannon she calls a right arm. Aubrey Drohner was on the mound for SPASH and once again was dominant, providing opportunity after opportunity for her defense to do their job.
“We came ready to play. It’s really nice to have defense behind me, I like to throw my pitches into the ground so my players can make a play and I love how they play great defense,” said Aubrey Drohner.
Defense, defense, defense has been the calling card of the Panthers all year. They’ve just been waiting on their offense to get it together. Over the last two playoff games, they’ve found their rhythm. In SPASH’s victory over Hudson last Friday, they scored nine runs as well. They’re gelling at the right time and coach Drohner expressed his thanks to the weather, of all things.
“We went through a streak there where we weren’t hitting the ball. We got some rain and we were able to stay inside and we got a lot of hitting in. I think it may have helped us but right now we are clicking and I look forward to the next challenge,” said coach Drohner.
Their first challenge of the game was to score some runs- it didn’t take long and it didn’t take a lot of effort from the Panthers to get one. Ally Miklesh led off with a walk in the first and was able to get all the way home by the way of a wild pitch and a throwing error.
They added another run in the second. Kluck led off with a high pop-fly that somehow dropped in for a double. Maggie Gruber advanced her over to third with a bunt and Jordan Kawlewski hit a sharp grounder past the second basemen to drive her in.
The bottom of the line up really came to play today for the Panthers. Coach Drohner was happy to see them show up and deliver coming down the stretch.
“This year the bottom of our lineup has not been good. We have kids who can do it, they just haven’t up until now. If we can get Jordan going and Hannah (Worzella) going and get rolling at the bottom part of our lineup that’s going to help us tremendously because it makes us very dynamic,” said coach Drohner.
Dynamic, impressive, relentless, all words that could be used to describe the Panthers’ fourth inning. Flugaur led off with a liner over second and was brought in two batters later by Hailey Ehr. Worzella came up next and demolished a ball over the left center fence to increase the lead to 5 – 0. It was Worzella’s second home run of the year.
“Coach just said be ready on that first pitch,” said Worzella. “It was coming and looked good, I just capitalized on it.”
The Panthers weren’t done yet. Miklesh scored all the way from first on a throwing error by the infield, Aubrey drove in a run with a ball past the shortstop and Kluck hit her second double of the game to score Payton Gaber.
“It’s really nice to be peaking in the playoffs,” Aubrey Drohner said, smiling. “We’re hitting really well right now and I’m hoping it continues.”
It will have to continue if the Panthers hope to make it past their next opponent, the Chippewa Falls Cardinals. SPASH met them twice this year and they split the contests, defeating them at the SPASH Invitational but losing to them at the Chi-Hi tournament. In the latest poll, SPASH was ranked No. 5 in the state right behind the Cardinals, ranked No. 4, though SPASH got the nod as the top seed in the sectional.
The Panthers got offensive production from a number of players. Kluck went 2 – 3 with two doubles and an RBI, Aubrey went 2 – 4 with an RBI, Worzella went 1 – 3 with a home run and an RBI and Gruber went 2 – 4 with a run scored.
From the bump, Aubrey was nearly flawless, going all seven innings allowing only three hits and fanning six.
SPASH will play Chippewa Falls on Thursday at D.C. Everest High School, with a berth at state on the line.
“I’m ready for our next game,” said coach Drohner when asked about state. “I just want to focus on that next game and prepare them to play well. If we play well against any team then I like our chances.”
WP: Drohner LP: Goldberg
2B: (SPASH) Kluck, 2
HR: (SPASH) Worzella