ANNA — It started innocently enough — a pleasant, non-district game of softball between Anna and Community on a cool, clear evening at the Anna Sports Complex. It ended, zombie-like, three hours later, after 33 runs, three extended umpire conferences and with a girl in the visitors’ dugout moaning for something to eat.

Fans who gathered on Tuesday, March 7, certainly got their money’s worth. The line shows Community 22, Anna 11 – but this contest was so much more: the Lady Coyotes were down, 14-3, and rallied late to almost tie it; two home runs were jacked so far over the center-field fence, they may still be rolling down Rosamond Parkway; and, though the game was declared over after five innings, it continued on for another hour.

The umpire meetings involved Anna head coach Lindsey Lacy noting Community’s illegal substitution in the top of the fifth and Lady Braves head coach Jackie Ryan claiming the move didn’t require umpire re-notification in the bottom of the frame. (Or something like that.)

“I had a pinch-runner for my first baseman,” Ryan said. “I told the umpire that I was going to re-enter her, and I did not remind him at the end of the inning. So he never recorded (her) back in the game to the other coach. So when we brought her in to pitch, the Anna coach waited until their batter batted and then brought up the fact that she was not substituted in correctly.”

“They didn’t re-enter a kid and it ended up being the pitcher,” Lacy said. “So whenever my batter got out, I reported that the pitcher wasn’t (officially) in the game. That’s how we plated the run and … had the next hitter up.”

Community opened up a 10-0 lead after three at-bats, but in the bottom of the third the Lady Coyotes began to chip away. Madison Davis started things with a double then came home on Chastity Brown-Littleton’s single to center. After a Dombrowski single, Natalie Koenig smacked a double to score both Brown-Littleton and Dombrowski.

But the Lady Braves added four more runs over the fourth and fifth innings to lead, 14-3. With Anna needing two runs in the bottom of the fifth to avoid being “run-ruled,” Dombrowski led off with a double to the center field wall. Natalie Koenig then stepped up and sent a 2-run shot way over the fence in deep-center to bring Anna to within 14-5. The Lady Coyotes then loaded the bases with two outs but would score no more before their third out. When that occurred, the home plate umpire, for some reason, shouted “Ball game!”

That’s when things got squirrelly.

Lacy approached the umpire and a long discussion ensued, eventually including the other umpire. Then a long discussion with both umpires and Ryan took place. The verdict: Community had used an “illegal” player — a pitcher — so Anna’s batter was awarded first base, which scored a Lady Coyotes run.

The Lady Braves retook the field and Anna prepared to bat with the bases loaded and two out, now trailing, 14-6. Then another discussion occurred. When play finally resumed — about 20 minutes after “Ball game!” — Howell promptly smashed a two-out, 3-2 pitch for a bases-clearing double and the Lady Coyotes were down, 14-9. Dombrowski then singled to bring home Howell and Natalie Koenig slapped her second double of the night to complete Anna’s amazing 8-run inning.

But the Lady Braves responded with eight more runs over the last two frames, including a 3-run homer in the seventh by freshman Rebecca Whitten to close it out.

“My girls played hard,” Ryan said. “And I’m very proud of their defense and I’m proud of how our pitchers fought. I give it to Anna for battling, though. It’s tough when you’re down.”

“What can you say?” Lacy said. “We had 11 errors, only gave up 10 — only, 10 earned runs is a lot — but at the end of the day we ended up scoring 11. So if you only give up those earned runs, you still give yourself a chance. Defensively, we’ve just got to make the routine plays. We’ve got to help our pitchers out. Our pitchers are doing their job. They’re getting ground balls and they’re getting pop-ups. It’s just, everything else has to fall in order for us to win. In other words, we have to play pretty perfect right now. … I never worry about us scoring runs. Usually we do a pretty good job about that. Our hitters can keep us in the game — it’s just our defense keeping us in the game too.”

Hannah Howell pitched 1-and-1/3 innings for Anna before Grace Price came on with the Lady Coyotes down, 6-0. Price completed the rest of the game – then all traveled home for the rest of a well-deserved spring break.