Freshmen stepping up to play big roles

Grafton softball team is young but has a veteran pitcher in Paschke

COACH MIKE BERGMANN used his teaching craft at Saturday’s Grafton softball scrimmage. He finally gets to lead the Grafton High School softball team after being hired more than a year and a half ago. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

As young as the Grafton High School softball team is this season — with only two seniors — it has experience where it counts.

Sara Paschke was the team’s No. 2 pitcher as a sophomore and was slated to be the ace last season. That got delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic so the senior takes over this year.

“I’m looking forward to seeing her as a senior, as a leader,” coach Mike Bergmann said. “She has a variety of pitches she has been working on over the years.”

The players aren’t the only inexperienced Black Hawks. This is Bergmann’s first head coaching job. He was assistant under Ken Hunt, who led Grafton to its only conference title in 2017 and resigned two years later to focus on his career. Bergmann was hired in fall 2019.

Bergmann, who has taught math at Grafton High for 18 years and is an alumnus of the school, also coached junior varsity basketball under former Grafton coach Mike Kalina, coaches boys’ soccer under longtime coach Don Arnold and assisted veteran baseball coach Brian Durst for nine years, starting when he was in college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Bergmann has 21 players in the program this year, enough for a junior varsity squad, but will require some players to compete at both levels.

“We will be thin but flexible,” Bergmann said. “That’s been the biggest word that we’ve talked about, flexibility.”

Freshman Reese Konczal will play catcher. Bergmann said he has coached her in the past and knows her well since his daughter, now in eighth grade, has been one of Konczal’s teammates.

“She’s got all the tools,” he said.

At third base, junior Lauren Malchow will start early in the season. Some younger players may also see time there.

“It’s kind of her spot to lose at this point,” Bergmann said.

Junior Ivana Micic will play shortstop. She spent a little time as a freshman on varsity and will take a bigger role now, Bergmann said.

Sophomore Jenna Isaacson will play second base in her first chance to play high school softball.

“She has great club experience and is a nice player batting toward the top of the order,” Bergmann said.

Freshman Alicia Melotik will patrol left field and freshman Avery Smith will start in center. Other players may see time at both positions.

Senior Anna Wheeler will handle right field.

“She brings a lot of experience,” Bergmann said.

Junior Dani Thompson is the team’s No. 2 pitcher who brings a left-handed arm to the rubber.

At the plate, unlike many lefties, Thompson won’t be slapping the ball to third and try to beat out the throw.

“Dani’s more of a power hitter. She’s trying to get up there and hit a gap,” Bergmann said.

Isaacson also bats lefty and may do some slap hitting.

While the infield is somewhat set, the batting order “is very much up in the air,” Bergmann said.

Hitters down in the order who come up with clutch hits or bunts may move up as the season goes along, he said.

Practices before the first games were important since the crunched schedule due to the alternative fall season has teams playing three to four games per week, Bergmann said.

The Black Hawks have practiced on their new turf field and on dirt in preparation to play at Cedarburg on Tuesday and at West Bend East on Thursday.

The Hawks open their home season on Friday at John Long Middle School against non-conference foe Cedar Grove-Belgium.



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