EDWARDSVILLE — On a day when she didn't have her best control, Edwardsville senior pitcher Amber Toenyes still found a way to lead the Tigers to victory.
Toenyes allowed four hits and stuck out 12 as the Tigers edged the Belleville East Lancers 3-2 Tuesday in a Southwestern Conference softball game.
Toenyes also had six walks and two wild pitches. She got the final out on a called third strike after running up a 3-2 count on East cleanup hitter Haley Gegelman with the tying run at first base.
"Coach (Lori) Blade always tells us to find a way, and that's what being a competitive person is about," Toenyes said. "It may not always be the prettiest, but we found a way to win."
The Lancers stranded eight base runners as Toenyes and her teammates managed to limit the damage from the walks.
"My defense did such a great job this game that it really boosted me," Toenyes said. "The walks really hurt, but defense really helps."
Blade said she was sticking with Toenyes until the Lancers tied the score.
"It was a good team win," Blade said. "Amber fought her way through. Her and (catcher) Anna (Washleger) are still figuring each other out a little bit. We'll get better from this game, too."
The Tigers improved to 4-0 overall, 1-0 in the SWC.
The game was the first of six games in five days for the Tigers, a stretch that also includes a key SWC matchup against O'Fallon on Thursday at the O'Fallon City Park.
The Lancers fell to 5-2 overall, 0-1 in the SWC. They'll also be playing every day for the rest of the week.
"One of the things we just talked to the girls about is that after a big game like this, the tendency is to come out flat the next day," East coach Natalie Peters said. "We have Gibault tomorrow. We have to learn from this. It's early in the year. Would we have liked to perform better today? Most definitely. I always say that if we learn from our mistakes and we are better next time, then we'll be all right."
Losing pitcher Alison Mitts deserved a better fate as she allowed only five hits and one earned. She struck out five and walked six.
"We gave them two runs on two plays that I see this team execute daily in practice," Peters said. "We had two huge miscommunication plays that hurt us today. Alison had a great game. I think early in the game she was getting behind batters, which was hurting her. She rebounded from that. She kept it close the whole game. She did everything we could have asked her to do."
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on back-to-back, two-out hits by Toenyes and Kallen Loveless.
Toenyes singled to center field and pinch runner Megan Pranger stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher.
Loveless doubled into left-center to bring home Pranger.
"We have probably the best team speed that we've had, and we have to take advantage of that," Blade said of being aggressive on the base paths.
The Tigers increased their lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning.
Washleger walked, Aubrey Dickmann singled, Ari Arnold bunted the runners to second and third and Taylor Maggio lifted a fly ball to left field.
The Lancers were using a special defensive shift against the slap-hitting Maggio, and center field Kayla Fields dropped the ball as she collided with left fielder Katie Belleville on the play.
The Lancers got on the scoreboard in the sixth inning when Andrea Roberts singled and Gegelman, Haley Wroten and Annie Eversman all drew walks to force in a run.
The Tigers got what turned out to be a much-needed insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.
Dickman walked, Arnold singled to right-center field. Dickman scored on a throwing error to second base on a steal attempt by Arnold.
The Lancers made it interesting in the seventh as Fields singled off the third-base bag with one out. Fields stole second and scored on a two-out single by Roberts.
Toenyes escaped the jam by getting Gegelman on a sinking fastball that was a borderline strike.
"He was tough because Rachel (Anderson) got punched out on one that I thought was very questionable in a key sitiuation," Blade said of the umpire. "He was consistent like that. Whether that last one was low or not, that's how he was the whole game."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.