Spartans win at the wire, survive Tiger upset bid

Grubbs’ walk-off hit gives Exira-EHK softball team 5-4 regional win

 KIMBALLTON (July 15) -- You can throw out the records at tournament time.
 It’s no doubt an old sports cliché, but the Exira-Elk Horn-Kimballton softball team nearly experienced the harsh reality of that phrase Wednesday night before making a dramatic rally to save their unbeaten season.
 Trailing Griswold 4-2 and down to their final out with a runner on third, the ninth-ranked Spartans got an RBI single from senior Kami Waymire, a double by senior Lexi Madsen and a walk-off two-run single by junior Tatum Grubbs to survive and advance, 5-4, in a thrilling Class 1A regional quarterfinal at Kimballton’s Lloyd Petersen Park.
 Exira-EHK improved to 14-0 with the win while the Tigers finished 11-9. The Spartans won the regular season matchup 9-0 back on June 20, but you wouldn’t have known it by watching the rematch.
 Griswold came out of the gates by posting an impressive three-spot in the top of the first and never trailed until the final pitch was socked into center field by Grubbs. Madsen scored the winning run easily from second base, then jumped into the arms of Grubbs in celebration.
 “I was pretty nervous and I’ve been struggling a little bit hitting,” said Grubbs, who went 2-for-4 at the plate. “The last time I talked to Coach (Andrea Nulle) she was just like, ‘You’re an athlete. This is what you live for, this is what you do sports for,’ and I was like, ‘I got this.’"
 Nulle, the Spartans’ first-year head coach, credited her players for battling to the bitter end and coming up with three clutch hits.
 “That’s the biggest thing about everyone on our team - they love the game, they’re huge competitors,” she said. “They were telling each other, ‘Hey, it’s our time, it’s our time.’ They weren’t going to give up. They want to keep playing."
 There was nothing easy about Nulle’s first postseason game as a head coach.
 About 10 minutes before first pitch, the Spartans found out they would be playing without starting third baseman Mollie Rasmussen, who was unable to participate due to a family illness.
 About 10 minutes after first pitch, the Spartans trailed 3-0 following Haylee Pennock’s two-run double to the center field fence and Brenna Rossell’s RBI single.
 “That was a bomb dropped,” Nulle said of losing Rasmussen during pre-game. “I think that had a little bit to do with our beginning of the game. (We want to) keep playing for Mollie. She would have loved it. It killed her when she had to leave tonight.”
 Griswold had some great first-inning at-bats and swings against Exira-EHK ace Macy Emgarten (14-0), who got tougher as the game went along and ended up pitching a five-hitter with one walk, one hit batsman and five strikeouts.
 She also got some help from her defense, including a possible game-saving catch by Alisa Partridge in center field to end the third inning. Griswold, up 3-1 at the time, loaded the bases with two out for Dakota Reynolds, who laced a sinking liner into shallow center. Partridge, who had started the game in left, dove forward and snared the ball just inches off the grass, saving at least two runs.

Class 1A, Region 2 Softball Tourney
First Round Scores: Monday, July 13
Westwood 12, Whiting 0 (3)          Griswold 4, CAM 3 (8)
Audubon 8, CR-Bayard 7              Riverside 11, Woodbine 2
Glidden-Ralston 5, Ar-We-Va 3    West Harrison 10, Boyer Valley 2
Quarterfinal Scores: Wednesday, July 15
Newell-Fonda 12, Westwood 0 (3)    Exira-EHK 5, Griswold 4
Audubon 11, Glidden-Ralston 3        West Harrison 3, Riverside 2
Semifinal Pairings: Friday, July 17
Audubon (11-8) at #2 Newell-Fonda (16-2), 7:00 p.m.
West Harrison (13-6) at #9 Exira-EHK (14-0), 5:00 p.m.

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