PREP SOFTBALL: A gameday surprise

Wabasso softball coach Tiffany Eichten and her family recently welcomed their newest addition — and it came with the assist(ant) of a lifetime

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Eichten Pictured above is the Eichten family. From (L to R): Christopher, Jeter, Elway, Andie, Elloray and Tiffany.

WABASSO — Four years ago, Wabasso softball coach Tiffany Eichten went through the season while pregnant with her and her husband Christopher’s second child; the day after the season ended, their daughter Elway was born. So when Tiffany was pregnant during this past season, she thought it would be a similar situation. What she, her family and her team didn’t know was they were about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.

‘I wasn’t expecting anything to

be different’

Tiffany woke up last Tuesday morning, already past her due date and feeling a little pressure and told her assistant coach Andrea Ellanson to be ready to step in her place if she needed to go to the hospital. But since all of her previous three kids had been born at least 10 days late, she wasn’t too concerned.

“I was overdue by four days; all of my kids were born 10 days past due or later, so until that morning I wasn’t expecting anything to be different,” Tiffany said. “When Elway was born four years ago, she was born the day after the season ended, so we thought it would be similar to that. During the day, I told my assistant coach that there was some pressure there and to be prepared to coach.”

The Rabbits, who were the second seed in the South bracket of the Section 3A tournament, had fallen into the consolation bracket but worked their way to the semifinals and needed two wins against No. 1N Lac qui Parle Valley and No. 2N Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg. Wabasso was able to earn a 10-0 victory in six innings against LQPV to advance to face KMS. It was during that second game where things started to change.

“During the first game, I was just being focused and didn’t really feel anything and thought that probably after the game we’ll go to the hospital,” Tiffany said. “Then during the fifth inning of the second game, I started to feel more pressure and when I got back to the dugout, they wanted to know how far apart my contractions were. I was like, ‘I’m ok’.”

Ellanson said she started to notice that Tiffany was quieter than normal when she was coaching at third base. When they returned to the dugout, upon finding out how Eichten’s contractions were, Ellanson texted Christopher, telling him to be prepared for a quick exit.

“I noticed Tiff was quieter at third base and wasn’t moving around like she normally does. When we got back to the dugout, I asked her how far apart her contractions were. I said, ‘5 minutes? 10?’ and she said, ‘Probably 5’,” Ellanson said. “We went into the top of the sixth and I thought we just need six more outs but then the sixth inning took longer than expected, so I texted Chris that as soon as the game was over that you should be heading to the hospital.”

Christopher, who was at the games, said he didn’t see the text right away, but was able to get them a ride from the field at Lakeview High School in Cottonwood to the car.

“I got the text, but I didn’t see it till five minutes after she sent it. If I would have seen it before the top of the seventh, I would have maybe gotten the car closer but instead I got us a ride to the parking lot since it’s a little far from the ballfields,” Christopher said.

The game finished in a 10-7 loss for Wabasso to the Fighting Saints, marking the end of the season for the Rabbits. After the game, Tiffany made sure to console the team before heading to the bathroom.

“I went to the bathroom and once my water broke, I knew it was game time,” she said.

A calm car ride

Tiffany, Christopher and Andrea piled into the Eicthen’s SUV, and the race was on. With Christopher behind the wheel and Andrea in the back with Tiffany, they started heading to Marshall. Tiffany said the original plan was to go to New Ulm, but they decided to go to Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center instead, just 15 miles away.

In addition to serving as an assistant coach on the Wabasso staff, Ellanson’s primary job is as an OB-GYN nurse in Redwood Falls. Ellanson was approached by Tiffany seven years ago after she took over the program about being an assistant coach and it was a no-brainer for Ellanson.

“I said yes without hesitation,” Ellanson said. “It was an opportunity to coach in my hometown for a great program. The other cool thing was she was a pitcher and I was a catcher, so we already had a bond that way.”

Over the years, Eichten and Ellanson have developed a close friendship and it has translated to a successful run for their program, with Wabasso recording at least 11 victories in three of the past four seasons and reaching the section championship game in 2018.

Tiffany and Christopher both said Ellanson’s calmness helped keep them calm throughout the whole delivery.

“When I was coaching and was pregnant [with Elway], I thought, ‘Oh, we’ll be ok, we’ve got an OB nurse on staff’ and it was kind of just a joke,” Tiffany said. “I never thought it would happen, but she was a lifesaver; not once was I nervous because she was calm and kept both Chris and myself calm.”

“The nice thing was I was focused on the road and it made things more calm because I was going really fast and going in and out of traffic,” Christopher said. “They were pretty quiet back there and I thought we were going to make it, but then all of a sudden a switch turned and it took one push and we had a baby. It was amazing to have Andrea with us. She made it about as easy as it could be and it was a seamless transition.”

At 8:18 p.m., along Highway 23 near Green Valley, Tiffany and Christopher’s fourth child and third daughter was born, 8 pounds and 6 ounces, 21 inches long and perfectly healthy. Ellanson grabbed a blanket that was in the backseat and wrapped the baby.

“When we got to the hospital, she knew every little detail like the birth time and what her measurements were and it was just remarkable,” Tiffany said. “It’s a blessing and I’m thankful to be such close friends with her.”

Ellanson added she’s delivered a couple of babies before, none of whom were born in the back of a moving car.

“I’ve delivered a couple of babies before but never in a car. It was definitely an experience and hopefully it’s the last one because I can’t recommend it,” Ellanson said with a laugh. “But as a nurse, we are there to take care of the patients and stay calm. They were calm and Tiff was doing amazing and it helped with the whole experience.”

Ending with

a “win”

When it came time to pick out a name for their newest addition, Tiffany and Christopher wanted to make it a special one, so they decided to name her Andie in honor of Ellanson.

Ellanson was touched when she heard the name later that evening.

“I’m very honored and blessed to be a part of their experience and when Tiffany told me later that night what the name was, I was taken aback and so emotionally touched,” Ellanson said. “It was just an experience to be there and to have her named after me is much more personal.”

Tiffany said while the team hasn’t officially met little Andie yet, she has already felt the love and support from her community and is extremely grateful.

“Not yet, but on the first night, we got home and I had so many messages. I’m so blessed and it’s crazy to have this amount of support,” Tiffany said. “We both grew up in a small town and we have so much family and friends and we’re so thankful for the support.”

Tiffany added she considered leaving during that fifth inning but was glad she stuck it through with her team.

“During the fifth inning of the second game, I considered it, but it was a close ballgame and I’m thankful I stayed because otherwise I would have been on the way to the hospital without the OB,” Tiffany said. “It was all in God’s hands and it was a blessing that I didn’t leave.”

She said the way her team battled all year helped her get through the labor while continuing to coach at the same time.

“This whole year the girls battled; we had some sixth-inning comebacks and games where we 10-run ruled teams, but they showed a lot of grit and they rubbed that off on me with the pregnancy,” Tiffany said. “They did it all and I’m proud of them and it starts with the seniors. I’m also thankful that we were able to have a season. They were a great group of girls and I’m glad that I was a part of their journey the last few years.”

“I don’t know any woman who could coach and stay through the whole process while being in labor,” Ellanson said. “It just shows you how strong and dedicated Tiffany is as a woman.”

Fifteen years ago on the same day, Tiffany won a softball state championship as a player. Now, the Eichten family is celebrating another victory and it’s thanks to a crucial assist from Ellanson.

“It took my mind off of our season ending,” Ellanson said. “And Tiffany and Chris were still winners at the end of the day with a healthy baby girl. It was a crazy but wonderful experience.”


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