Everything that Mother Nature threw at the Stevens Point Area Senior High baseball team they just shrugged off and simply played ball.
The drawn out Division 1sectional tournament — which started Tuesday morning and wrapped up Thursday afternoon — that the Panthers won to propel them to their 14th WIAA state tournament appearance was just the latest hurdle that the they got past with flying colors. The Panthers (25-4) take on Kenosha Bradford (22-5) at approximately 3 p.m. Tuesday in a Division 1 state quarterfinal game at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.
Back in March, when practice started and there was still snow on the ground, the state tournament seemed like a long ways off. And with how winter hung on it was.
After opening their season at La Crosse on April 6, the Panthers next game was 10 days later. As the season progressed and the weather cooperated, the team started playing games day after day, with little or no down time.
“I give the guys credit not only during the sectional tournament, but all year long,” SPASH coach Kraig Terpstra said. “We went two weeks between games at one point this season and went to the other extreme by playing nine games in a week. We played three extra inning games in a row. All season long this group rolled with whatever circumstance was thrown at them.”
During the sectional tournament, the Panthers’ semifinal game with Eau Claire North was suspended in the fourth inning with a 4-0 lead. The team took a proactive approach to the postponement and was ready to go when it resumed Thursday morning.
“We had a solid indoor practice on Wednesday and worked on a lot of little things,” said juior Cal Giese, after Thursday’s semifinal win. “We took grounders, worked on hitting to all fields and situations in the infield to be ready to finish that game off.”
The Panthers finished off North and then trounced Hudson in five innings in the championship.
“With how the spring was, we played through it all,” said senior Sterlin King. “We played on days that it was so cold we probably shouldn’t have been swinging bats, but it’s baseball in Wisconsin.
“When the weather is bad it’s all mental,” King added. “When it’s cold and rainy you play hard and play to win just you would if it was sunny and 80.”