PEPIN -- It was hard not to notice, even from the baseball diamond.
Both the prep baseball and softball diamonds in Pepin are in close proximity to each other. So while Elmwood and Pepin baseball fans, coaches and players we're trying to concentrate on playing their season opener back on April 7, they couldn't help but turn their heads at all the noise coming from the softball diamond.
It was early in the season for the Spring Valley-Plum City and Pepin softball teams as well. Yet the constant, game-long cheering and intense play had a championship atmosphere to it despite the date on the calendar.
But in the hypercompetitive world of Dunn-St. Croix Conference softball, every game is a championship game, because one loss can be costly considering how talented and strong the teams are.
That's why wins by both the Cardinals and Elmwood over Pepin last week were important in shaping the race for the league title as the Lakers now are 2-2 in league play while SV-PC is 2-0 and Elmwood 1-0. For the first time since 1994, the Lakers could very well be dethroned as league champions.
Usin' the long ball
The Lady Laker softball team had already won their first two contests over Mondovi and Elk Mound while Spring Valley-Plum City was playing its first contest.
Yet that didn't stop SV-PC from jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the top of the second inning thanks to a three-run, 200-foot homer by Kimmy Keehr.
Pepin came back to take the lead in the bottom half of the inning by scoring six runs. SV-PC tied at 6-6 in the fourth when Billie Nelson scored of Charlie Nelson's single, but Pepin again took the lead with runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
In the top of the seventh, Cardinal pitcher Stephanie Thompson secured the win for herself by blasting a two-run homer.
The Cards added an additional run when Aarynn Deutsch scored on a single by Larissa Feuerhelm.
Pepin put runners on second and third with no outs in the bottom of the seventh but Thompson ended the game with two of her nine strikeouts.
Both Keehr and Billie Nelson scored twice. Charlie Nelson led SV-PC in hits with three with two RBIs. Alyssa Gould had two hits and an RBI.
Jen Oberhart led the Lakers at the plate with three hits, including a double. Samantha Lerum, Jolene Hince and Julie Noel all had two hits with Lerum and Hince both hitting doubles. Hince had three RBIs.
First time expense
Pepin early game experience didn't help them against Elmwood either as the Raiders won their season opener 14-7 last Tuesday at Pepin.
"I am very proud of our players for the way they preformed," EHS head coach Kim Webb said. "For a first ballgame we did very, very well."
The Raiders blasted 20 hits on the Lakers led by a 5-for-5 performance by Miranda Wheeler. She knocked out three doubles and triple and drove in five runs. Erika Wolf was just as potent with four hits, two doubles and a four-run homer and five RBIs as well.
Staci Callow and Mary Laube each had three hits as well with both driving in a run. Brittni Peterson and Rachel Bechel each had two hits for the Raiders with Peterson hitting a double and Bechel driving in a run.