Softball: Big catch, big swing by Athey wraps Elks’ 10-7 win over Anoka

Cleanup batter Bethani Athey connected on this pitch for a three-run homer that gave the Elks a 10-6 lead in the sixth inning. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

 

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

In Bethani Athey’s five years as an Elk River softball starter she never had a better inning than Monday in nailing down a 10-7 win over Anoka at home.

How many times does a player get mobbed by teammates twice in the same  inning?

Courtney Jensen got the win with a five-inning relief stint, working in and out of trouble. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

That’s what happened for Athey as she made a diving catch of a foul ball with bases loaded  and her team leading 7-6 in the top of the sixth, then slammed a three-run homer in the bottom half to open a 10-6 lead.

Oh, yes, it was also Bethani Athey Senior Day.

“This was her special day, and she did something special,” grinned coach Stacy Sheetz.

Athey was 3-for-4 with four RBI and Courtney Jensen turned in a gritty five-inning relief stint as the Elks rallied from a 4-0 deficit.

Anoka had one run home and the sacks loaded with two outs when they tried a squeeze bunt. The ball was popped foul. Athey had only a couple seconds to react but lunged to snag it about 12 feet from the plate for the third out.

“I got it in my head, that I gotta go get it,” she said. “The ump was in the way for a second.”

In the bottom half, two runners were aboard with two outs when Athey worked a 3-1 count from Anoka reliever Megan Lindenfelser, then crushed a letter-high fast ball over the left field wall, her first homer of the year.

“I dunno, it was just a perfect pitch,” beamed Athey, who leads the team with a .364 average and 13 RBI.

The other big hit in the victory was Austyn Beese’s two-run double to deep right-center that capped a four-run fourth and gave the Elks a 6-5 lead. Michaela Bruns was 2-for-2,  Dani Edwards 1-for-3 with two RBI, Jayme Langebehn 1-for-3 with an RBI and Ali Krohn 1-for-2.

Elk catcher Bethani Athey and teammates including Courtney Jensen (middle) and Michaela Bruns (27) celebrated her diving catch of a foul ball that ended a bases-loaded threat. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

 

When Elk River lost a wild opener to Anoka 17-16, starter Anna Pipenhagen was  hit hard, and Jensen pitched well enough in relief to keep the Elks in the game. Pipenhagen settled down and has become a very reliable starter after that, but Anoka dinged her up again for four runs in two innings. Sheetz brought Jensen over from first base.

Jensen threw five innings, giving up eight hits and two walks, striking out none, but yielded only three runs, and the Elks will gladly take that considering how hard Anoka has hit them this year. She got the win.

“Cort has not pitched a lot because Anna is going well,” said Sheetz. “But Anoka, they’ve just go Anna’s number. Courtney had a good drop ball and she has  good off speed pitch that kept them off balance.”

Jordyn Novak was 2-for-3 with three RBI for Anoka. Lindenfelser was 2-for-3 with four runs. Hailee Gifford and Lindenfelser each threw three innings and gave up five runs.

Left-on-base was a key stat as Anoka had 13 and the Elks only four.

The Elks, 4-6 in conference and 6-8 overall, will play at Park Center on Wednesday.

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