EDWARDSVILLE — After outlasting O'Fallon 9-8 in nine innings in a tense game on Wednesday, the Edwardsville Tigers don't have much time to exhale.
The Tigers (33-2) will play the defending state champion Moline Maroons (28-10) at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Edwardsville Sports Complex in the championship game of the Class 4A Edwardsville Sectional.
The two teams met in the semifinal round of the sectional in 2008, and the Maroons came away with a 5-4 win.
"We've faced once in the postseason, and they got us in a game very similar to this," Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said Wednesday night after the win over the Panthers. "They just have great tradition. It's here though, and I'm proud of the kids for getting through. Hopefully, we can represent the (Southwestern) conference and the south here, and maybe get out of the sectional again. We'll give it our best effort, that's for sure."
Moline has dispatched the metro-east representative in the title game of the sectional in three of the last four years. It beat Belleville West in 2008, and then beat O'Fallon in each of the last two seasons.
The Maroons lost three seniors, including pitcher Jordan Kasbohm, from their state championship squad.
Sophomore right-hander Alaina Hoffman (15-3) has taken over the No. 1 pitching duties for the Maroons.
The Maroons have three players -- Jordan de los Reyes, Brittny Drish and Kaitlyn Knary -- who have signed to play for Illinois State.
De los Reyes hit a 250-foot, three-run homer in the third inning that helped the Maroons take a 5-0 lead in their 5-3 win over Joliet West on Wednesday.
The Tigers are seeking their first sectional title since 2009 when they placed second in the state in Class 4A.
Edwardsville has only two seniors -- catcher Kendall Navin and right fielder Megan McNamee.
"It's awesome to have a young group like this," Navin said. "We really do have a solid team that is willing to fight and give it everything that we have."
Navin said she's not surprised about how quickly the Tigers' young squad has come together.
"After seeing how they played early in the season and seeing the drive and the work ethic they have, I knew we would be OK," Navin said.
Navin is hitting .554 with 22 doubles, five homers and 47 RBIs. She had a two-run homer in eighth inning of the Tigers' win over the Panthers.
McNamee is hitting .421 with four homers and 28 RBIs.
The Tigers have gone with freshman Kallen Loveless on the mound for every inning, but one in the playoffs.
Loveless battled through 14 O'Fallon hits in her eight innings of work against the Panthers.
"She has a good attitude," Navin said. " She works hard, and she realizes that what is done is done and you have to move on and get the next batter out, and that's what she did."
Junior pitcher Amber Toenyes, whose mound time has been scarce late in the season because of injury, logged one scoreless inning against the Panthers.
"We were hoping to get an inning or two in, but she went 17 pitches that inning and I wasn't really going to go more than that because it has been a while," Blade said of Toenyes' work load.
Toenyes' one inning enabled Loveless to compose herself after giving up five runs in the first three innings.
"It helped me calm down a little bit," Loveless said. "I was rushing out on the mound, and I was kind of getting frazzled."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.