Tom Drohner coached Stevens Point to a Division I state championship in Wisconsin for softball last season and he might be able to do the trick again thanks to a wealth of talent on his roster.
“Last year, we had great team chemistry,” said Drohner, whose team went 26-0 last season. “We played very solid defense. And we had a pitcher who did a good job of forcing other teams into our strengths and that was our defense.”
He was referring to Stacey Tuskowski, who was the state player of the year.
“She was a big-time competitor who has an excellent, dropball, decent changeups and hit her spots very well,” Drohner said. “She forced people into hitting groundballs with her drop ball. She played to our strengths.”
Tuskowski is among the seven starters who are back this season.
“She's going to be our workhorse,” Drohner said. “We have more depth at pitching than we've probably ever have had. We have a couple of other seniors, Katie Krueger, and Nicole Henke. We've got a young sophomore who is a hard-throwing young lady, named Kelly Franks. From the pitching standpoint, that's an area of strength for us. We're hoping to build off of last year's success.”
Solid hitters include center fielder Brooke Piotrowski, who batted .440 and led the team in runs scored.
“I believe (she) is one of the premier hitters in the state,” Drohner said. “She created a lot of havoc on the basepaths and really put a lot of pressure on the opposing defense.
“We also have Megan Cherney in right field. She batted .425 for us last year and is a great defender. She was more of an RBI person, but she's transitioned into more of a slapper this year. She's a very fast young lady. She can hit from both sides as can Brooke.”
There's also Alli Novotny, “who is a tremendous athlete,” Drohner said, “and was our leading hitter two years ago. But she battled some injuries last year. I'm looking for her to have a big season. Any ball that gets up in the air, if it's up there for a long time, it's going to get caught.”
The talent doesn't end there. Also on the roster is returning shortstop Brittany Vergquist. “Her specialty really was defense last year and she started coming on offensively,” Drohner said. “I'm seeing that offense even more so early on in the season. I'm looking for her to have a big season for us.”
Returning at first base is Kassie Krueger. “She's good defensively and has some good speed at third base,” Drohner said. “She led our team in RBIs (38) and home runs (four) last year.
“We lost our all-state second baseman Emily Haluska, which will hurt from a leadership position. We lost our catcher who was a great leader as well. But that's a strength for us.”
Piotrowski has high hopes for the season.
“We went down to Florida this year and got a lot of practice,” Piotrowski said. “With a little bit of practice, we're right back on our game and ready to roll.”
Piotrowski hopes to hit between .450 and .500 this season. “The coaches work with us and help us out,” she said, adding that as an outfielder, “we can all cover a lot of ground. We work together really good. It's not just one.”
Katie Krueger is also confident of a huge season.
“We always hope to get better and improve every year. We want to take it to another level every year,” she said. “I think we'll be a good hitting team. We just have to keep it up. I just need to look for pitches to hit and know the situation you're in.”
Can her team go undefeated again?
“We're going to try to,” Krueger replied. “Hopefully we will go undefeated again. We can't look at the big picture yet.”
Two remarkable pitchers met when Rosholt defeated Tri County 2-0 this week. Kyle McHugh did the job for Rosholt, tossing a no-hitter and striking out 20 of the 21 batters he faced. He had a home run and a double at the plate. He allowed three walks, pitching for a team that has four freshmen starters.
Tri County notched a key performance from Chris Dunn who allowed two runs on four hits and fanned 14 batters. He didn't walk anyone. Dunn only five months ago was diagnosed with testicular cancer but has gone through chemotherapy.
Albany senior Tyler Bauman pitched a perfect game to lift his team to an 8-0 baseball win over Williams Bay-Faith Christian on Saturday.
Bauman didn't allow any baserunners and struck out 16 in a huge performance.
Bryan Helberg, Nick Meyer and Ryan Gilles pitched a combined no-hitter and Medford's offense defeated Ladysmith 9-0 in the season openers for both teams. Meyer, struck out nine batters in three innings pitched and, at the plate drove in six runs and hit a triple and a home run in a 2-for-3 day at the plate.
Mike Jacobs and Aaron Jones of Beloit Turner combined for a five-inning no-hitter earlier this month against South Beloit. Jones pitched two innings and helped his own cause by smacking two home runs in the same inning.
Donte Wilmet and Jon Schlemmer combined on a six-inning no-hitter for West De Pere in a 10-0 victory over Ashwaubenon. They combined for 10 strikeouts. Schlemmer also had two base hits.