Athlete of the Week: Payton Gaber, SPASH - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Athlete of the Week: Payton Gaber, SPASH

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After missing out in 2015, SPASH softball is headed back to Madison this year for its 17th State tournament appearance.

Though she's a graduated senior, this will be third-year panther Payton Gaber's first trip to State. She missed the team's run in her sophomore season with an injury. 

"She was having a big year for us, until about 8 games in, she's tore her ACL," SPASH coach Tom Drohner said. "But this year -- knock on wood -- she's stayed pretty healthy and her numbers have reflected that."

Gaber has been an offensive machine in 2016, batting well above .400, with six home runs and more than 30 RBIs, but the journey back from such a major injury was far from easy.

"I didn't even know if I could play again," Gaber said. "It was probably the longest time of my life. It took a lot of hard work and I had to put a lot of time into it, but it's actually made me a better person, mentally and physically."

And that's helped SPASH become better a team. Gaber's hot bat is one of many in the Panthers line up, which scores an average of nine runs per game.

"You've got people like our eight hitter and our nine hitter, who have really good batting averages and they hit home runs too," Gaber said. "So, if I were other teams I'd be scared."

If the Panthers are able to win State this weekend, it will be their ninth championship in school history. For Gaber, that wouldn't be a bad way to cap her high school career.

"I couldn't ask for a better last season," Gaber said. "We've worked so hard and everything... I think we're going to do great." 

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