By Brian Kalish
August 4, 2016
Pekin, IL– The Plover/Stevens Point area is known for championship caliber softball, and that trend continued this past weekend as the Plover 12U Nationals won the national title in a tournament played July 28-31 in Pekin, Illinois.
For those trying to put the significance of this championship into perspective, Plover coach Bob Miklesh said, “This is kind of like the World Series. This is the pinnacle for our kids coming through the Plover league.”
The expectation for Plover was to compete and play well in a tournament loaded with talent. They were not only able to do that, they also returned to Wisconsin with some hardware.
Plover entered pool play with 27 other teams from all around the Midwest. The Nationals notched two wins right away, beating Pekin Blue 14-0, then downing Midwest Menace 2-1.
Moving into bracket play, Plover picked up two more wins before suffering a loss to the LGSA Jets. The loss pushed Plover into the losers’ bracket, where they faced an uphill battle to get to the title game.
The Nationals bounced back by beating Southern Heat to set up an epic run on Sunday, the final day of the tournament.
Plover battled to four consecutive wins on Sunday. The Nationals downed Pekin Blue 11-2, Total Contact 3-2, Chaos 10-7 and, avenged their earlier loss by beating the LGSA Jets 10-9 to advance to the title game.
Due to the double elimination format of the tournament, Plover would have to defeat East Peoria Express twice in order to win the national championship.
Losing is not something East Peoria has done much of. The Express compiled a 92-17 record heading into the title game.
However, Plover came loaded for bear, winning the first game 6-2. They followed that with a 12-4 thumping of the Express.
Miklesh said that he was extremely proud of the way the team responded, particularly with their backs against the wall after suffering the loss.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Miklesh said. “We played six games on Sunday at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. The girls showed a lot of guts just being able to play back-to-back-to-back. When you come through the losers’ bracket, it’s pretty tough.”
Key to the Nationals’ success was tremendous pitching.
“Ireland Grenlie, Jaelyn Slowinski and McKenna Guden just pitched phenomenally,” Miklesh said. “In the one game we gave up nine runs, but other than that, I don’t think we gave up more than four runs. You’re going to win a lot of games if you only give up four runs, especially at 12U. That’s what really stuck out was our pitching and our defense was really, really good.”
In addition to outstanding pitching, Plover did plenty of damage at the plate with a team batting average of .406.
“The kids in our area, Point and Plover, play really good softball,” Miklesh said. “They’re as good as anybody’s kids.”
Plover’s roster consisted of McKenna Guden, Maddy Miklesh, Hilirie McLaughlin, Sami Huebner, Kasie Joseph, Ireland Grenlie, Sami Miller, Jaelyn Slowinski, Tia Livernash, Grace Repinski, Briar Armatowski and was coached by Miklesh and Todd Huebner.
Plover concludes the season with an impressive 40-5-1 record.