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Yearbook photos of the 1987 and 1988 SJA Softball team
  • Legends Division

I have never been good about remembering stats. In fact, I had forgotten I had been named Conference Coach of the Year for both championship seasons! What I have always been good at is remembering the faces and the names of the teammates, players, coaches and parents who have been such a big part of my career and this applies to this amazing group of women being recognized tonight, including my amazing sidekick, Dick Hietpas.

So let us start at the end of the 1986 season. I wasn’t there yet, but I was told the team lost a heartbreaker in extra innings to Milwaukee Pius in the state finals. Kathleen Hartmann confidently predicted preseason (in a conversation with sportswriter Len Wagner) that the Sajoacs WOULD win the 1987 WISAA state championship. And that’s exactly what they did. Knowing they were going to have to work with their third coach in four years, the team could have folded, but they didn’t. They took a chance on this “rookie” and invited me on the ride to the top. And what a ride it was! A big revenge victory against Pius in the final game. Let’s go back 31 years ...

Yearbook photo of the 1987 SJA Softball team

As I said before, I am not big on stats, but, when you look at the numbers these young women produced in two seasons, you can’t help but be impressed. During both seasons, the Sajoacs were undefeated in conference play and led the league in all stats: two-year record of 41-3, outscored opponents over the two seasons 427-71. In ‘87,

pitchers Kristin Vandenhouten and Sarah Diedrick had ERAs below 1.0 and threw several no-hitters. Batting averages for 17 players were over .300 and the overall batting average for the team was .345. The ‘87 Sajoacs dominated all- conference honors and six players were elected to the all-state team.

Yearbook photo of the 1988 SJA Softball team

That brings us to ’88. Diedrick graduates and we are left with one pitcher. Kristie Whipp got the nod for the No. 2 spot. In a preseason interview I stated, “If Whipp comes through, we won’t have a glaring weakness”. An opposing coach predicted, “I won’t be surprised if they win it all. It all depends on how their second pitcher does.”

And that, my friends, is exactly what it boiled down to in the final game. Our offense had sputtered, so every run was crucial. Knowing Kristin had limited innings in the championship game against Pius, Dick and I had to strategize. We decided to pitch Kristie to the bottom of their lineup and use Kristin during innings when we would face the top of the order. Kristin and Kristi worked their magic and stellar defense brought the house down. The Sajoacs were back-to- back state champs, a feat which had never been accomplished in WISAA’s 12-year state tournament history. Five players received all-conference honors, and Kristin Vandenhouten was named Conference Player of the Year for the second year in a row and also the state tournament MVP.

I’d like to end with a statement from Kristin who was instrumental in providing material I used in sharing these incredible memories with you. She says, “I know a lot of the articles focused on pitching, but those years were filled with amazing contributions and highlights from every position. Sometimes it was a huge diving catch to end an inning, a spectacular double play, someone gunned down trying to steal second base, our own runner stealing home, a clutch hit to keep us alive in the state tournament, the list is really endless. Even though 30/31 years have passed, certain things still make me think back to those days and all the faces and smiles and jokes and laughs, and high fives and celebrations. Those were some pretty fun times.” Kristin, you said it all.

Written by coach Beth Kiene

1987 team photo
First Row: Barb Brunette, Michelle Miller, Debbie Tomcheck, Kristin Crowley, Jenny DeWane. Lisa Thomas, Julie Frease. Middle Row: Sheila Thomas, Susan Maulick, MiMi Brunette, Kelsie Brosteau, Tracy Motiff, Jenny Micolichek, Kathy Hogan, Lori Nowak. Third Row: Coach Beth Kiene, Heidi Hietpas, Marybeth Holewinski, Kristin Vandenhouten, Kathleen Hartmann, Sarah Diedrick, Lisa Roshak, Lisa Schingen, Kristie Whipp, Coach Dick Hietpas.

1988 team photo
First Row: Debbie Tomcheck, Susan Maulick, Michelle Miller, Kelsie Brosteau, Kristin Crowley, Sheila Thomas. Middle Row: Marybeth Holewinski, Erica White, Jenny DeWane, Cindy Beams, Lori Nowak, Jenny Micolichek. Third Row: Coach Beth Kiene, Manager Paula Newman, Kathy Hogan, Tracy Motiff, Kristie Whipp, Kristin Vandenhouten, Statistician Julie Schauer.

  • 2019