CHIPPEWA FALLS – For the past two years McDonell softball has been in a class of its own. It claimed back-to-back Division 5 state titles and amassed a record of 32-5 between 2017 and 2018. On Thursday, the Macks’ reign came to an end with a 7-4 loss to Loyal in the WIAA regional final at Casper Park.

The Greyhounds paired timely hitting and stellar defense to pull off the come-from-behind upset victory.

“We have a lot of respect for them and their program,” Loyal head coach Randy Montalvo said. “We knew coming in that we were going to have to play our best softball and today we kind of put it together.”

With one out and runners on first and second in the fourth inning, Loyal’s McKenna Schley hit a ground ball at second baseman Olivia Mlsna. The ball skipped along the dirt infield and took a strange hop, eluding Mlsna who couldn’t make the play. The unlucky error allowed the Greyhounds to tie up the game at 1-1 and prolonged the inning. Two batters later, Loyal capitalized, shooting a ground ball through the center of the diamond to pull ahead with a two-run single.

“We got unlucky a couple of times,” Macks coach Chelsea Seckora said. “Sometimes the ball just doesn’t roll your way.”

The Macks responded in the fifth by taking advantage of a questionable decision from Loyal. With one out and runners on the corners, Montalvo decided to intentionally walk Shanen Rice to move the go-ahead run into scoring position and bring Kaitlyn Ortmann to the plate. The goal was to create a force at any base, but Ortmann made them pay. She smacked a ground ball through the infield to score a pair and give McDonell a 4-3 lead.

The Greyhounds wouldn’t trail for long. Again they took advantage of an unlucky error charged to Mlsna when a hard groundball took a strange bounce and skipped up on her, hitting her near the throat. A batter later, Loyal took a two-run lead.

In the bottom of the sixth, McDonell’s Jessica Eisenreich hit a one-out single, but that was as close as the Macks would come. Loyal added two more in the top of the seventh and McDonell couldn’t come back.

The loss marked the end of the road for McDonell’s six seniors. They’re a group with more wins than any other in Macks softball history.

“I couldn’t be prouder of them. These girls give you everything they’ve got,” Seckora said while fighting back tears. “I’m so proud of them. … Our six seniors worked their butts off the last four years. I’m proud of them.”

After the game, Seckora reminded her team of everything they’ve accomplished over the years.

“This makes you realize how great it is to have those awesome moments in your career.” Seckora said.

Two state titles and a pair of conference championships is an incredible feat and something these seniors will have to look back on for the rest of their lives.

“I’m thankful for the last four years,” Eisenreich, a senior, said. “I’m glad we got the chance to go to state and feel how it was to win.”

Loyal 7, McDonell 4

Loyal 000 302 2 — 7 9 2

McDonell 010 030 0 — 4 7 2

WP: Katlyn Linder (7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 K, 2 BB). LP: Maggie Craker (7 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 2 ER, 9 K, 2 BB).

Leading hitters — McDonell: Jessica Eisenreich 2-3 (RBI), Kaitlyn Ortmann 1-4 (2 RBI). Loyal: K. Linder 2-4 (2 RBI), Zaida Brock 2-4 (2 RBI).

Records: McDonell 14-5.