STEVENS POINT – Pacelli senior shortstop Sami Kay Shafranski had yet to pick up a bat or softball when the Cardinals brought home the school’s first WIAA state championship in 2003.
Yet Shafranski and the rest of the Pacelli roster feel a special connection to that team as they attempt to capture the school’s third title today in Madison.
Current Cardinals assistant coaches Stephanie (Johnson) Treichel and Beth (Boden) Nemec were the starting third baseman and shortstop, respectively, on that Division 3 championship team.
Now the former players have left an indelible impression on this year’s team that is looking to follow in their footsteps.
“It honestly is an honor to have them coaching us,” Shafranski said. “They both have taught us all so much about the game and also about life lessons that softball holds.
“It gives us more motivation going down to state,” she added. “It makes us not only want to win it for the team, but for our coaches, too!”
A lot can be said for becoming part of a championship tradition — one Pacelli hopes to build upon in its Division 4 state semifinal today in Madison.
Who better to get the message of sacrifice and drive and unselfishness required to succeed across than athletes who have been in their spikes and experienced the ultimate in the sport.
Nemec and Treichel understand what it takes to perform when it mattered most.
“Being a part of (Pacelli softball) means a lot to people,” Treichel said. “There is a level of pride that comes with it. I think it’s important (the coaches and players) understand the program and the legacy behind it.
“Beth and I want players to know what this program means to us, I still bleed red and navy.”
There is a Pacelli softball bond that never seems to get broken.
Nemec and Treichel heard from players who were winning WISAA State Championships in the 1990s when they qualified for the state tournament.
This year’s team has received best wishes and congratulations from players who won a state championship in 2012.
And so it goes.
“That’s the beauty of Pacelli softball,” said Pacelli coach Ann Molski, who was an assistant coach on the 2003 championship team. “I’ve always had alumni or friends of the team asking to come and help.
“Once you’re part of us, we keep you.”
So when several openings popped up on her coaching staff, Molski didn’t have too look far to fill those vacancies.
Not only were Treichel and Nemec talented players, but who better to help instill the values and tradition that comes with Pacelli softball.
And Molski didn’t have to ask twice.
“Having these two ladies come and coach on the staff is really neat,” Molski said. “It’s a really neat little family we have here. Once you’re a Cardinal, you’re always a Cardinal.
“How many people in central Wisconsin have been able to say they’ve coached a professional athlete (Nemec),” the head coach added. “The girls are really in awe of her.”
Treichel offers another perspective for the players.
“Steph brings this fire, she has this drive and is always like, ‘Let’s go, let’s go, come on, come on,’ and the girls really appreciate her candidness and her ability,” Molski said.
Treichel and Nemec bring a wealth of softball experience to the practice field and dugout.
Nemec recently returned to the area in 2010 and landed a job after a stellar college career at Tennessee Tech and a stint with National Pro Fastpitch.
A former Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year at Tennessee Tech, Nemec works as the Cardinals’ hitting coach.
It should come as no surprise Pacelli is hitting .376 as a team entering its matchup with McDonell Central today.
“It’s been real fun being back here with the girls,” Nemec said. “The impact you can have on them and the confidence you can instill in them and the life lessons you can teach them through sports, that’s really what I’m out here for.
“It’s one of those things where once you play here, it’s part of who you are,” Nemec added. “The blood, sweat and tears you put into this and it becomes part of you. So to be able to come back and instill what we learned in these girls is a reward in itself.”
Treichel, who played softball at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh before knee issues derailed her playing career, served as the head coach at Port Edwards for several seasons.
Once she got married and started a family, the travel proved to be too much and Treichel looked for something in coaching a little closer to home.
What better place than her alma mater to resume her coaching career. Among her duties Treichel holds down the first base coaching box during games.
“I work with the girls when maybe their feeling down or losing confidence, making sure they’re always up and the bench is ready to go,” said Treichel, whose dad John has also returned to the coaching staff.
“I try to help them understand that what we’re teaching is stuff they should take off the field too, stuff that can help in daily life as an adult because I remember how much that was a help to me.”
Treichel is also coming to learn being a coach on a state tournament team is a lot tougher than being a player.
“I think I’m more nervous than I’ve ever been for a state tournament game,” she said. “As a coach you can only do so so much. You can’t play the game for them.”
Scott A. Williams can be reached at 715-345-2282, or on email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter as @SPJScottWill