Editor’s note: Craig Maalis asked Milaca softball coach Randy Johnson a few questions following the softball team’s trip to Florida. The Q&A is below.
Q: Where did you play? One location or several?
A: We played at the ESPN sports complex at Disney’s Wide World of Sports facility. All of our scrimmages and practices were here throughout the week of March 24-28.
Q: When did you leave and when did you get back?
A: We left Friday, March 21, about 4 p.m., drove the night and arrived in Orlando on Saturday evening. We returned to Milaca on March 29, about 4 p.m.
Q: How many girls were on the trip?
14 players, four chaperones, Randy and Jean Johnson (head coach and wife), Cory and Leslie Ploeger (assistant coach and wife).
Q: What is the main focus of the trip? Improving skills? Team bonding?
A: This was our seventh trip to Disney since 2000. Our No. 1 goal for each of the trips has been to find ways to build our overall team in improving skills individually, team offense and defense with a great emphasis on building players to work together as a team. We do a variety of team building games and activities on the bus on the way down and at the fields. This year our main emphasis was on building team confidence. Each player was responsible for sharing a word that helped the team understand how confidence is built. Each player received a ball to write down words that were important to them to help build their self-confidence in the game of softball and also in life.
Q:Could you provide some stats or box scores for us?
A: First off, the MSHSL does not allow us to play any official games, so all of the following information comes from scrimmages with other teams. In most cases we tried to create as close to live game situations as possible.
Milaca 7, Iola, Wis., 9
We were ahead most of the scrimmage but gave up some late runs.
Natalie Bernard 3/3
Milaca 5, Fieldston, N.Y., 5
This was probably our best overall scrimmage with excellent pitching and great defense. Because of time limits, the scrimmage ended in a tie.
Hannah Johnson 2/2 2 runs
Milaca 14, Horace Mann High School, N.Y., 6
We really dominated this scrimmage with outstanding hitting and base running.
Hannah Johnson had 7 K’s and 0 BB’s.
Alex Ploeger: 5/5, 4 runs scored.
Rachel Airhart: 3/5, 3 runs
Kristina Loegering: 4/5
Ori Scherer: 2/4
Makenzie Horrigan: 2/4
Milaca 12, West Salem, Wis., 5
A 7-run second inning helped us take control.
Natalie Bernard: 2/2, 1 run
Hannah Johnson: 2/3
Alex Ploeger: 2/3
Milaca 18, Dwight Engelwood High School, N.J., 12
We were up 12-0 in the 4th inning. Played some younger players who did a great job.
Madison Shores: 1/3
Paige Quaintance, Olivia Kragt, Becca Johnson all scored runs late in the game.
Q: What was the most exciting scrimmage?
A: Fieldston, N.Y.; very equal, we had an early lead but allowed them back in the game with a few errors. We came back to tie it up as time ran out.
Q: How was your pitching this early in the season?
A: Hannah Johnson looked very strong early in the week. She pitched the equivalent of 35 innings
Over four days, with 31 K’s and 7 BB’s, tired at the end of the week. Excellent control, good speed. Sophomore Kaylee Rothanburg was able to get in some work against several teams She got stronger as the week went on.
Q: How did they bat? What was their team average for the trip?
A: Alex Ploeger Jr. SS led all hitters going 16/25 .640 avg for the week.
Natalie Bernard, Sr. C .470.
Kristina Loegering Jr. CF .434.
Rachel Airhart Jr. 2B . 423.
Hannah Johnson Jr. P .333.
Makenzie Horrigan Jr. 1B . 294.
Team avg. .333.
Q: What are the top priorities or skills you worked on as a team? Individually?
A: Because we had not even been on dirt before we got to Disney, we just wanted to cover the basics with fielding and position responsibility. Individually, we were anxious to see how our pitching would do against the first live hitters of the season.
Q: How was the defense? Any error-free games?
A: Defensively, we looked good. A few bad hop errors, but overall, our defensive positioning and adjustments to situations was very good. With experienced players in six to seven positions we were pleased with how we came together at the end of the week. Our hitting was spotty at times, but because they were scrimmage situations, we moved batters into and out of the lineup to get as many players at bats as possible.
Q: What do you see as your strengths coming into the season?
A: We are experienced at seven of the nine positions with strong pitching. We have four left-handed hitters in the lineup, which gives us some offensive options in the bunt-slap game.
Q: How are you maintaining focus while we wait for the fields to dry out?
A: Wish I had a good answer for this one. Coming back from being outside in Florida has been tough on the players to keep a focus. We have gone back to working fundamentals and throw in some competitive events to create some interest.
Q: How did this trip compare to previous trips?
A: All of our trips have been very good, but I must say the growth of this team as a group has been very rewarding to see. From the fundraising events throughout the year and the obstacles faced to get our fund raising done, these girls have been amazing. They have started to build a strong team relationship and are also outstanding students with a team GPA of 3.77.
Q: What was the most memorable moment on the trip? (Does not have to be softball-related.)
A: The best memory from this trip as a coach has been watching these girls come together as a team and demonstrate a caring attitude for each other. Watching the younger girls grow and watching the more experienced girls work together to build a strong team will hopefully give us the strength to make it through this upcoming season.