Surely, it was one of the strangest and most exhilarating plays ever to take place on a softball diamond.
Three separate rundowns involved two runners and at least five different fielders.
And the final result? No outs and one crucial run.
A zany series of events in the fifth inning allowed Elkhorn Area's softball team to break a scoreless tie Tuesday against Wilmot. On the same day they rose four spots in the state coaches poll, the Elks defeated the Panthers 2-0 to move a step closer to their first ever Southern Lakes Conference title.
Izabella Regner struck out six and allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings, and Kenzie Calvillo and Lexi Rode each scored during a madcap fifth inning for Elkhorn (13-3, 9-2 SLC). The Elks won their fifth straight game and maintained their 1 1/2-game lead over Westosha Central in the Southern Lakes.
Five freshmen, including both run scorers, started Tuesday for the Elks, who jumped from No. 10 to No. 6 in Division 1 in Tuesday’s Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association poll.
“We’ve never been in this situation before,” Elkhorn’s fourth-year coach Steve Remington said. “All the publicity (we’ve) gotten is coming from somebody else. We’re getting that from the people we’re playing. They’re looking at us as a threat.”
Wilmot (10-6, 5-4 SLC), a team receiving honorable mention status in the poll, suffered its second straight loss.
For four and a half innings, Tuesday’s game breezed along as Regner and Wilmot’s Anna Wischnowski took turns throwing blanks.
With the game tied 0-0 in the bottom of the fifth, Calvillo led off by lining a double to the corner in left. She advanced to third on Rode’s single to shallow center.
Then, things got weird.
It began innocently as Ryley Rand hit a grounder to Wischnowski and was thrown out at first. Meanwhile, both Calvillo and Rode had held positions about halfway down their respective baselines as they looked to advance. Calvillo was trapped in a quick rundown but safely returned to third.
But Rode, as the trailing runner, too was almost to third by that point.
“Most of the time when we do the rundown situation, (our goal) is to get that second runner in scoring position,” Remington said. “That way, if she (the lead runner) gets tagged out, we’re at least standing there with a runner on third base.”
Rode escaped the second rundown, diving back to second as Wilmot threw home again to stop Calvillo, who had broken from third again.
A bobble at third allowed Calvillo to escape and slide home for the tiebreaking run.
“I went back and I saw Lexi coming,” Calvillo said. “(When) the girl at short was going to throw to second, I was like, ‘Well, now’s my time to go.’”
Rode then scored on a Wilmot error to double Elkhorn’s lead.
A pair of excellent defensive plays in the top of the seventh backed Regner and helped the Elks preserve their shutout after Madison Zerr’s leadoff double.
Third baseman Macy Rocha ranged left to spear a bouncing grounder and, instead of throwing to first, snapped the ball behind Zerr, who was tagged out trying to get back to second.
Then shortstop Maddy Harding made a leaping catch to rob Kenzi Ketterhagen of a hit for the second out. Hailie Morton grounded out to end the game.
It was Elkhorn’s fourth straight shutout. The Elks have outscored opponents 40-1 during their current five-game winning streak.
Elkhorn needs two more wins to clinch the Southern Lakes title. Westosha Central is in second at 8-4, followed by Union Grove (7-4) and Waterford (5-3).
The Elks will travel to Union Grove on Thursday.
ELKHORN 2, WILMOT 0
Wilmot 000 000 0—0 2 0
Elkhorn 000 020 x—2 5 3
Wischnowski, Zerr (6); Regner
SO—Wischnowski 4, Zerr 1, Regner 6. BB—Wischnowski 1.