Athletes and fans alike will tell you a home run is always special, no matter how many you experience. But few can ever match the emotion surrounding the one hit on April 26 by Sara Tucholsky, a senior softball player at Western Oregon University. That day, the Wolves faced Central Washington University with an NCAA Division II postseason berth at stake. With two runners on base, Sara’s line drive over the center field wall knocked in the first runs of the game. As Sara ran out of the batter’s box, she was also overjoyed for another reason; it was the first home run of her career. But as Sara rounded first, something happened that would make her historic homer much more than a personal accomplishment. She missed the bag. And as she turned back to touch it, her knee gave out. She crawled back to first in agony, unable to finish rounding the bases. Her coaches consulted with the umpires – if she was touched by her teammates, she would be called out; and if a pinch-runner was inserted, her first career home run would be wiped from the record books, replaced by a two-run single. That’s when Mallory Holtman, the Central Washington first baseman, spoke up. With 35 career home runs, most in the history of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, Mallory wasn’t going to let her opponent be deprived of her first homer, no matter the circumstances. With the umpires consent, Mallory and Wildcat shortstop Liz Wallace approached Sara with a plan to preserve her home run, one that would moisten eyes both inside the stadium and across the nation. Mallory and Liz picked up Sara and carefully carried her around the diamond, gently lowering her as they approached each base so that she could tag it with her non-injured leg. At home plate, they delivered her into the arms of her waiting teammates. Western Oregon went on to win the game 4-2, and advance to the postseason. Though Central Washington lost the game, Mallory and Liz’s selfless act did not fade away with their season. It has proven to be a beacon of sportsmanship – attracting praise from fans and media across the country in recent weeks. Though they could not have realized it at the time, Mallory and Liz transformed Sara’s home run. They turned it into something greater than runs on the scoreboard, something greater than the postseason, something greater even than the game of softball itself. In carrying their fallen opponent around the bases, Mallory and Liz exemplified the ideals of selflessness and compassion, and the principles of fair play. In the ballpark of sportsmanship, they truly hit a home run.
Mallory and Liz are being recognized by the Citizenship Through Sports Alliance and the St. Louis Sports Commission.