EDWARDSVILLE — The defending state champion Moline Maroons chose to keep it simple Saturday in the title game of the Class 4A Edwardsville Sectional.
Using the formula of good pitching from sophomore Alaina Hoffmann and the clutch hitting of Jordan de los Reyes and Jordan Myers, Moline came away with a 5-3 win over Edwardsville at the Edwardsville Sports Complex.
Playing before a large home crowd, Edwardsville (33-3) erased a 3-0 deficit in the fifth inning on a two-run single by Katelyn Bobrowski and clutch two-out single from Megan McNamee.
But a sacrifice fly by de los Reyes in the seventh inning scored Emily Rasche with the go-ahead run and Myers added an insurance run with an RBI single as Moline took the lead for good.
When Hoffmann retired the Tigers in the bottom of the inning, Moline (29-10) had earned a bid in the Normal Super-Sectional on Monday against Plainfield Central.
Plainfield Central advanced with a 3-1 win over Naperville North at the Aurora East Sectional on Saturday.
For Maroons coach Mark Gerlach, the chance to move on is something his team never takes for granted. Moline won the Class 4A state title game 9-8 over St. Charles North in 2011.
"To beat a very good Edwardsville program on their home field after a four-hour bus ride last (Friday) night shows the girls were really focused and that they wanted this really bad,'' Gerlach said.
"Every time you have the opportunity to be in position to get to the state tournament you have to enjoy it because you don't know if you'll get another chance. We're just very thankful to have a chance again.''
Moline scored in the first inning on a Myers run-scoring single and increased the lead to 3-0 in the fifth when Brittany Drish knocked a pitch from Tigers hurler Kallen Loveless to the right-field fence for a two-run triple.
Hoffmann, keeping the Tigers off-balance with a rise ball, curve ball and screw ball, didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning.
But Edwardsville (33-3) had a chance to get on the scoreboard in the fourth when Bobrowski and Kendall Navin drew back-to-back walks to lead off, then moved up a base when Hoffmann uncorked a wild pitch.
But with runners on second and third and nobody out, Hoffmann retired the next three Tigers.
"We had opportunities. I don't know if we had as many opportunities as they (Moline) did. But we had chances and we just didn't come up with the big hit,'' Tigers coach Lori Blade said. "And we haven't been. We scored a run the other night on a passed ball.
"I thought we were too passive at the plate. She (Hoffmann) threw the ball well and her location was good. Credit Moline, they got the hard hits and the bloop hits today when they needed them.''
Edwardsville's only big hits came in the fifth.
Carly Weimer reached on an error to lead off and went to second on a single by Olivia Nicholls. Hoffmann, like she had in the previous inning, struck out the next two hitters, but Bobrowski came through.
With a 2-1 count, Bobrowski lifted a pop up over Hoffmann's head that three infielders converged on. The ball hit the glove of Hoffmann, but fell to the ground as two runs scored.
After Kendall Navin walked, Megan McNamee singled to left, scoring the tying run.
Hoffmann recovered to get the final out of the inning, then retired six of the final seven hitters she faced.
The Maroons won it in the seventh, when with one out Emily Rasche and Kaitlyn Knary both singled.
Loveless then walked Brittany Drish to load the bases and de los Reyes hit Loveless' first pitch to deep center for a sacrifice fly which scored what proved to be the game-winning run.
"They (Rasche and Knary) had been slumping a little bit, but they came up with big hits in the seventh inning,'' Gerlach said. "Our three through five hitters have been solid all year long. They were again today.
"I was pleased with (Alaina) Hoffmann. She's only a sophomore and hasn't pitched all that much. But after the fifth inning, she was able to keep her composure well. She's got three good pitches -- rise ball, screw ball and curve ball -- and she's wild enough to keep the hitters honest.''