Wauzeka-Steuben softball builds 40 years of history under 2 head coaches

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Wauzeka-Steuben Head Coach Don Bauer talks to his team in 1993. (Photo courtesy of Wauzeka-Steuben High School Yearbook)

Amy Ward catches the ball, tries to keep her foot on the bag, and make the tag, but the Elmwood player is safe at second during the Class C State Tournament on Thursday, June 12, 1986 at Saratoga Stadium in Waukesha. (Courier Press file photo)

Lisa Wallin rockets the softball toward home plate during action at Prairie du Chien Monday afternoon, May 15, 1989. Wallin struck out 10, walked one and gave up three hits in pitching a 2-0 shutout of Prairie du Chien. Wallin would later become Wauzeka-Steuben Head Coach Lisa Wallin-Kapinus. (Courier Press file photo)

The Wauzeka-Steuben High School softball program reached a milestone this past season as 2017 marked the 40th year for the Lady Hornets.

There have been only two head coaches in the history of the program which began in 1977, and there have been several highlights throughout the years. 

Don Bauer coached the team, taught high school history, served as athletic director and was a three-time principal as well. He also coached several sports in addition to softball, including football, track and boys and girls basketball. Throughout his time at Wauzeka, Bauer served as athletic director for 26 years, being named the Wisconsin Athletic Director of the Year in 1996.

A year after the softball program began, Don and his players brought home the 1978 Regional Championship trophy.

Current head softball coach, Lisa Wallin-Kapinus, started coaching with Don in 1990 as a volunteer. In 1993, she became an official assistant coach. She was named head coach in 1998 after Don’s retirement. 

Bauer was Wallin-Kapinus’ softball coach, and when Wallin-Kapinus was a freshman, he took their team of 11 players to the state tournament in 1986. The 1986 team made it to state after upsetting Johnson Creek with a score of 13-12 in eight innings. 

In 1993, Coach Bauer’s and Wallin-Kapinus’ team were Ridge and Valley Conference Champions. This team also represented Wauzeka-Steuben in the state tournament. In 1995, their team took the Division 3 Regional Championship. In 2001, 2002 and 2015, these teams took the honors of being Ridge and Valley Conference champions.

“Mr. Bauer was a coach who pushed you and expected you to do your best,” said Wallin-Kapinus. “He loved sports and was dedicated to the Wauzeka-Steuben School District and sports programs. Don went from being my coach, to being my mentor and friend. Every softball season, I catch myself quoting Mr. Bauer in some fashion. I usually laugh and say, ‘That was just Don talking.’ There are many Mr. Bauer stories and memories that I share with all the women softball players from 1977-1997.”

The 40 years of Wauzeka-Steuben softball is built on tradition. The tradition of working hard together as a team and being committed to the program. This tradition was started by Coach Bauer within the school and carried over to the summer recreation program. Bauer had a passion for sports and competition. He instilled this passion in the many sports he coached, especially in the softball program. This spirit was passed on to Coach Wallin-Kapinus.

Lisa Wallin-Kapinus is an alumni player and a 1989 graduate of Wauzeka-Steuben. She has taught at the Wauzeka-Steuben School District for 22.5 years. She started playing softball at the age of 10 along with her sister, Deanna, who was 12. They played for the Bridge Street Bar of Steuben. Wallin-Kapinus’ parents owned the bar and sponsored the women’s fastpitch team. 

The girls’ dad asked Mary “Ma” Roach to take his daughters and teach them softball. Roach and her family, along with players of the time such as Elaine Kramer, Barb Karnopp, Mert Meyers, Donna Matti, Bernie Bartels and many more, taught the area girls the love of the game.

“The ‘girls of summer’ definitely influenced me as a player and a coach,” said Wallin-Kapinus. “For the love of the game, these women kept this game alive. That’s part of the reason I’ve coached so long. It’s in my blood. It’s my passion.”

Over the 27 years Wallin-Kapinus has been with coaching at Wauzeka-Steuben, she has had the pleasure of working with hundreds of Wauzeka-Steuben girls who have become her friends. 

“I will always have a place in my heart because of our softball experiences,” she said. “The goals I set for my softball girls are always more than just being great softball players. I believe sports should not only teach about competition, but also it should teach our players about life skills and values well beyond the field or court.” 

Wallin-Kapinus said that a good coach is a good teacher who passes on the excitement for learning. She noted that what she learned from Coach Bauer and “the girls of summer” was that you need to teach your athletes well enough so they can coach or teach someone else. “You truly understand and appreciate the game when you have taught someone else,” said Wallin-Kapinus.

Wallin-Kapinus said she has been lucky enough to coach her daughter and nieces, along with her neighbor’s and friend’s children. She said that it has also been enjoyable to be able to coach alongside former player and her sister-in-law, Angie Check. 

“I’ve coached long enough to coach my former player’s daughters, which completely dates me,” said Wallin-Kapinus. “It’s time to let someone else share their passion and love of the game with the girls of Wauzeka-Steuben. The time has come that I will pass on the softball tradition of Wauzeka-Steuben to another head coach. This has been my last season as head coach of the program. I am going back to school to get my master’s degree and look forward to watching my youngest son in his sports program.”

Coach Don Bauer passed away in January of 2017. He is still giving back to the Wauzeka-Steuben school, community and softball program. He donated funds toward field and grounds improvements at the Wauzeka Village Park. Currently, a bleacher covering is being built because of Bauer’s generosity. 

“On behalf of Don and myself, I want to thank the Wauzeka-Steuben School District and community for their support and dedication to the softball program,” said Wallin-Kapinus. “I know we both enjoyed our years as head coaches and I will continue to support Hornet softball for many years to come!”

Some of the many highlights of the Wauzeka-Steuben team over the past 40 years include:

1977 - Wauzeka softball started

1978 - Regional champions

1986 - Ridge and Valley Conference champions

1986 - Class C Regional champions

1986 - Class C Sectional champions

1993 - Ridge and Valley Conference champions

1993 - Division 3 Regional champions

1993- Division 3 Sectional champions

1995 - Division 3 Regional champions

2001 - Ridge and Valley Conference champions

2002 - Ridge and Valley Conference champions

2015 - Ridge and Valley Conference champions.

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