The final highlights of the Arlington softball season came from Eagles at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Senior Hailey Brenn hit the final home run of her accomplished career Friday in Malcom just one at-bat before freshman Britt Nielsen cleared the fence for the first time. The two swings staved off the Eagles' Class C5 District Finals elimination by two innings, though they did eventually fall to the Clippers during the three-game series, 2-0.
AHS ended its season 16-15 overall — two wins shy of a state tournament berth.
“Those two home runs were clutch,” Eagles coach Janelle Lorsch said.
To her, the power swings signified the end of one memorable prep career and the bright future of another.
“It's kind of poetic in a way,” the coach said.
Brenn's grand slam, and Nielsen's solo shot, came during Friday's second game in Malcom. The seventh-ranked Clippers won the first, 11-1, allowing just one Arlington run on Kiersten Taylor's third-inning sacrifice.
The 17-9 second game, however, had more back-and-forth.
“The fight in game two was constant, all the way through,” Lorsch said. “They never gave up.”
The Eagles scored the first two runs during the bottom half of the first frame. Emery McIntosh started things off with an infield single before Taylor moved her teammate into scoring position with another single swing.
Senior Gracie Herman's RBI-double pushed AHS out front, 1-0, before Paige Kraemer — a 12th-grade classmate — scored her with another two-base knock.
The two-run Arlington lead didn't hold, though. Malcolm scored the next 10 for a 10-2 advantage.
“That's a good Malcolm team, there's nothing to take away from them,” Lorsch said. “That's for sure.”
A Brenn RBI single and McIntosh sacrifice fly to right field cut the Clippers' lead to six, but they built it back up to 14-4 with four more runs during the top of the fifth.
Needing their runs to avoid a second run-rule loss in two games, the Eagles went to work during the bottom half. Cadie Robinson, Kraemer and Julia Landauer loaded the bases for Brenn, who hammered a two-out grand slam.
After celebrating with her teammates at home plate, Nielsen stepped into the batter's box and smashed her own homer over the outfield fence to pull Arlington within 14-9 — the closest it would get before season's end.
The Eagles accepted their C5 District runner-up trophy at Friday's conclusion, but admired each other much more than the hardware during the postgame. Arlington athletes and coaches shared tears, hugs and words of encouragement for several minutes.
Coach Lorsch thought her team played tight during the first district final game, but, settled in for the second. Between contests, the Eagles sat in a circle on foul territory grass and played a game amongst themselves, smiling and laughing despite all of the pressure on their shoulders.
“It's good to see those seniors lead those younger ones,” Lorsch said.
Brenn, Herman, Kraemer, Landauer and Johna Moural set good examples in the coach's eyes.
“If the leaders of now are any indication of what the leaders to come will be, it'll be phenomenal,” she said.
With Nielsen and many more set to return to the lineup, there are many more homers ahead for the Arlington softball program.