After completing the conference season with an 18-0 record, the Elk Mound softball team had high hopes of continuing their success with a deep run in the playoffs. After starting the regionals off by blasting the Mondovi Buffaloes 15-0 in three innings May 27, they followed up with a much closer contest, winning 4-0 over the Eau Claire Regis Ramblers the next day with both games played at home. As the number two seed of the tournament, they traveled to Bloomer to face the number one seeded Blackhawks for a Saturday afternoon contest and fell one run short of winning the regional championship with a 2-1 loss.
Both conference contests played earlier in the season by these two teams ended with much closer scores, so the Mounders were prepared for anything. Taking a slim 2-0 lead after two innings of play, the Mounders used everything in their offensive arsenal, combined with some Buffalo miscues to erupt for 13 runs in the third. (In WIAA tournament play, if a team is up by more than 15 runs at this point, the game is over).
The Mounders slammed nine hits in the game and Emily Ausman brought four runners in while Dayna Kotecki and Lexi Delong each collected a pair of RBIs. Kotecki earned the win, striking out five Buffalo batters and walking none in the three innings.
MONDOVI 0 0 0 –0
ELK MOUND 0 2 13 –15
Eau Claire Regis
After being knocked out of the regional tournament a year ago by the Ramblers, you can bet these Mounder girls still had a bitter taste in their mouths from that defeat. After a scoreless first inning, the Mounders got the ball rolling (or flying in this case) when Kari Jo Nigon dropped a bloop single over first. After stealing second and moving to third on a passed ball, Nigon came home on Kotecki’s deep pop to second that went off the fielder’s glove. Ausman continued her clutch hitting with an RBI single for a 2-0 lead and it looked like they would add to it when Morgan Polden laid down a bunt and moved all the way to second on a bad throw with one out, but with runners on second and third, a pop up and a fly ball ended the threat.
Kotecki and her defense did their thing with a 1-2-3 top of the third and the Mounders came back for two more runs in the bottom of the inning. Delong wasn’t fooled on the Regis pitcher’s changeup and drilled a single to center, then moved to second on another passed ball. Elizabeth Schreiber drew a walk and Nigon set down a slick bunt which couldn’t be fielded and the bases were loaded. A strikeout and a popup made things look a little glum however, but Ausman was at the plate at the right time yet again and she made sure her at-bat counted by slamming a base hit to center for a 4-0 lead. But a strikeout left two more runners on the basepaths.
Kotecki had to get herself out of a couple of jams, starting in the fourth when two Ramblers reached base on an infield error and a base hit, but a pop up to catcher Morgan McDougall on a bunt attempt, a strikeout and a ground out to second ended the inning. The Mounders had an opportunity to add on to the lead when Jade Sorenson slammed a leadoff triple to the fence in the fourth but three straight outs left her stranded there. In the sixth, Regis again put two runners on with a single and Kotecki’s only free pass of the game, but a pair of fly balls, including one that left fielder Polden had to chase down as it drifted in behind the shortstop, and a groundball to Olson at shortstop ended yet another Rambler threat.
Kotecki was through fooling around at that point as she put the Regis girls down in order in the seventh to finish off the win.
Elk Mound collected five hits in the game including Sorenson’s triple and a double from Lauren Scharlau while Ausman collected a trio of RBIs. Kotecki scattered three hits and struck out four batters for the win.
“We had some timely hits and our defense made some key plays,” coach Dylan Pronschinske said. “But we left some runners out there and we need to be more consistent offensively to bring them in.”
EAU CLAIRE REGIS 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0
ELK MOUND 0 2 2 0 0 0 X – 4
In a game that was moved back a day due to a steady rain throughout the area, the Mounders had a chance to play on the new softball field in Bloomer which was outside of the city in a very open area with nothing to block the wind which made an appearance from time to time. It was a matchup between two of the area’s best pitchers, Kotecki and Blackhawk junior Aliya Seibel and the game turned out to be everything a game should be between the top two seeds. Elk Mound’s leadoff batter Olson started off with a shot that bounced off the center fielder’s glove for a single, and Pronschinske, figuring every run scored in this game was going to have to be earned, called for a bunt. Delong set one down and was thrown out at first and Olson never hesitated at second and headed to third. But a perfect throw resulted in a bang-bang play and the call went in Bloomer’s favor for a double play. Schreiber followed by getting hit by a pitch and Nigon singled past third to put runners on second and third and when Scharlau knocked a base hit up the middle, Bloomer came up with another great throw to cut Schrieber down at the plate for the third out.
After a single through the infield by the Blackhawks started the bottom of the second, it was their turn to be aggressive on the basepaths as they followed with their own bunt and the lead runner raced around second, and on another bang-bang play, was called safe at third. A base hit by Danielle Score followed to put Bloomer up 1-0 but the inning ended when Polden chased down a deep fly ball for the third out.
Seibel had the Mounders out of sync for the next few innings by changing speeds on her pitches and throwing a consistent riseball, but Kotecki had also settled down. Kotecki tried to help her cause when she slammed a two out double off Seibel’s first pitch to her in the fourth but a ground ball left her on second.
Elk Mound finally broke through in the fifth when Polden, known for her excellent bunting skills, led off with a base hit to center and ended up on second on a bad throw. Sorenson moved her to third on another perfect bunt that Bloomer failed to field cleanly and Olson spanked an RBI single past first to bring Polden in. Delong was thrown out at first on a bunt but runners were now on second and third and what could have been a big inning for the Mounders fizzled out on a strikeout and a groundout, leaving the score at 1-1.
Both teams went down in order in their next at bats and after Bloomer’s top hitter singled up the middle, Kotecki whiffed the next Blackhawk on three straight pitches and forced a groundout to Olson to end the inning.
In the top of the seventh, the Mounders had another chance to go ahead when Sorenson drew a one out walk, and after a strikeout, Delong singled to put Mounders on first and second. Seibel then whiffed the next batter for out number three.
The large crowd that gathered to watch one of the better played games of the season knew one or two big plays were going to determine the outcome of this one. Seibel led off the bottom of the seventh by sending a ball to deep right that tailed off towards foul ground and bounced off the fielder’s glove, and another close play resulted in her being called safe at second. A bunt moved her to third, and with Score at the plate again, she sent a base hit over third base to bring the winning run in.
Elk Mound outhit Bloomer 9-6 with Olson going 2 for 4 and seven others all collected one hit. Kotecki ended her four year career by allowing six hits with two strikeouts and no walks. Elk Mound ended their season with a 25-4 record.
ELK MOUND 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 – 1
BLOOMER 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 – 2