With two runners on base and a strike against her, Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University uncorked her best swing and did something she had never done, in high school or college. Her first home run cleared the centerfield fence.
But it appeared to be the shortest of dreams come true when she missed first base, started back to tag it and collapsed with a knee injury.
She crawled back to first but could do no more. The first-base coach said she would be called out if her teammates tried to help her. Or, the umpire said, a pinch runner could be called in, and the homer would count as a single.
Then, members of the Central Washington University softball team stunned spectators by carrying Tucholsky around the bases Saturday so the three-run homer would count — an act that contributed to their own elimination from the playoffs.
Central Washington first baseman Mallory Holtman, the career home run leader in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, asked the umpire if she and her teammates could help Tucholsky.
The umpire said there was no rule against it.
So Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace put their arms under Tucholsky's legs, and she put her arms over their shoulders. The three headed around the basepaths, stopping to let Tucholsky touch each base with her uninjured leg.
"The only thing I remember is that Mallory asked me which leg was the one that hurt," Tucholsky said. "I told her it was my right leg and she said, 'Okay, we're going to drop you down gently and you need to touch it with your left leg,' and I said, 'Okay, thank you very much.' "
"We started laughing when we touched second base," Holtman said. "I said, 'I wonder what this must look like to other people.' "
"We didn't know that she was a senior or that this was her first home run," Wallace said Wednesday. "That makes the story more touching than it was. We just wanted to help her."
Tucholsky's injury is a possible torn ligament that will sideline her for the rest of the season, and she plans to graduate in the spring with a degree in business. Her homer sent Western Oregon to a 4-2 victory, ending Central Washington's chances of winning the conference and advancing to the playoffs.
As for Tucholsky, the 5-foot-2 rightfielder was focused on her pain. "I really didn't say too much. I was trying to breathe," she told the Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday.
"I hope I would do the same for her in the same situation," Tucholsky said.
As the trio reached home plate, Tucholsky said, the entire Western Oregon team was in tears.
For coach Pam Knox, the gesture resolved the dilemma the injury presented. "She was going to kill me if we sub and take (the homer) away. But at the same time I was concerned for her."
"In the end, it is not about winning and losing so much," Holtman said. "It was about this girl. She hit it over the fence and was in pain, and she deserved a home run."