Beloit Memorial’s defense slammed the door shut on Elkhorn’s state softball hopes Tuesday evening.
The Elks came into a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal with 18 victories and as the Southern Lakes Conference champions, but their first qualification to the state tournament will need to wait.
Jacey Walker tossed a three-hitter, and the Purple Knights’ defense rose to the occasion—particularly on the final four outs of the game—in a 1-0 thriller at Elkhorn Area High School.
Beloit, the No. 4 seed, will take on sixth-seeded Wilmot on Thursday at Lake Geneva Badger. Beloit will be looking for its first state appearance since 1998.
“We couldn’t have hit four harder balls in a row,” Elkhorn coach Steve Remington said of his team’s final four trips to the plate. “Couldn’t have hit it any harder. But they played well.”
With a runner on second and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Elkhorn catcher Ariena Schliepp flared a ball to shallow left field. Angelique Spencer raced in for the catch to prevent the Elks from tying the game.
Relief pitcher Izzy Regner, who tossed three innings of one-hit ball, led off the bottom of the seventh with a drive to left, and Spencer bobbled the ball momentarily but held on for the catch. Kenzie Castillo then saw her line drive snared by Beloit shortstop Brynn Swanson, who dove to her left for the highlight-reel grab. And the Purple Knights ended the game by snaring Ryley Rand’s drive into the wind in straightaway center field.
Remington lamented that his Elkhorn team couldn’t take advantage of opportunities earlier. The Elks had a runner in scoring position in four of the first six innings, including a runner on second with less than two outs in each of the first two.
“We were pressing early, and that was the difference for us,” Remington said. “We should’ve put runs across early, but that’s been our problem lately.
“Hats off to Beloit, though. They played well, and they put the ball in play.”
Elkhorn starter Christina Crawford allowed just two hits in her four innings, but the Purple Knights manufactured a run in the top of the fourth inning.
Natalie Bittner led off the frame with a single that glanced off Crawford and then stole second. With one out, Swanson ripped a grounder to Elks third baseman Macy Rocha. Rocha attempted to get Bittner straying off second base, but Bittner returned safely, leaving runners at first and second with one out.
A wild pitch allowed both runners to advance, and Ari Brown walked to load them. Spencer then lifted a fly ball to right field, deep enough to plate Bittner on a sacrifice fly for the game’s lone run.
Elkhorn also missed out on a golden opportunity to at least tie the game in the fifth. Regner and Rudolf each singled, putting runners on second and third with one out. Maddy Harding laid down a bunt that was fielded by Walker, who froze courtesy runner Bethany Arnold between third and home. Walker threw to third baseman Madison Stavn, who then cut Arnold down at the plate.
“We could go back and look at some of that stuff,” Remington said. “But we had a helluva season. I can’t complain. And as young as we are, look out for us next year.
“I’m proud of the season they had. They’re setting the table for years to come.”
BELOIT 1, ELKHORN 0
Beloit Memorial 000 100 0—1 3 2
Elkhorn 000 000 0—0 3 0
Walker and Ryan; Crawford, Regner (5) and Schliepp
Leading hitters—None. Extra-base hits—None.
SO—Walker 3, Crawford 3, Regner 6. BB—Walker 2, Crawford 1.