O'FALLON — Junior Molly Dumstorff picked an opportune time for her first home run.
Dumstorff's homer in the third inning broke a 1-1 tie and O'Fallon pitcher Taylor Bowlby made the slim lead hold up as the Panthers beat the Belleville East Lancers 2-1 Monday in a Southwestern Conference softball game.
"I haven't seen that in her,. but I'm really excited about how she's been hitting in the second spot in the lineup,'' O'Fallon coach Kate Walsh said. "That's just another one that can do it.''
The Panthers have clubbed 18 homers as a team already this season, but Dumstorff said that's the first time she's ever homered on the varsity squad.
"I hit a few in junior varsity a few years ago, but that's my first one,''Dumstorff said.
Dumstorff's high drive to center field backed East's Kayla Fields up to the fence before carrying over.
"I didn't think it was gone because it doesn't happen a lot,'' Dumstorff said. "I just was aggressive, and I was surprised. I'm a line drive kind of hitter, so that doesn't happen to me a lot.''
The Panthers improved to 17-4 overall and took over first place in the SWC with a 7-1. They'll play Edwardsville today at the Edwardsville Sports Complex in another key SWC matchup.
"That's because of the rain,'' Walsh said of playing SWC rivals on back-to-back days. "I really didn't want to schedule them back-to-back, but I had to.''
Belleville East and O'Fallon had been rained out previously three times, including last Tuesday when the game was stopped due to lightning in the bottom of the fourth inning with the Panthers lead 11-0.
"I told my team that they were going to be a totally different team than what we saw last Thursday,'' Walsh said. "Obviously, they were, but I'm proud of my team for coming out strong, hitting well and playing defense really well behind Bowlby.''
Bowlby allowed only three hits in raising her record to 12-2. She struck out four, walked two and hit a batter.
"We had solid defense all the way around, and Bowly always pitches well,'' Dumstorff said. "It's nice to have her in there.''
The Lancers dropped to 19-4 overall, 6-2 in the SWC.
"We just didn't hit the ball hard well consistently,'' East coach Natalie Peters said. "We had maybe one or two hard hits all day. We just have to better than that offensively.''
East pticher Alison Mitts surrendered eight hits, while striking out three and walking one.
Mitts made only one bad pitch, which resulted in the homer by Dumstorff.
And, the Lancers' defense committed only one error, which resulted in the Panthers taking a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
"I thought Alison was great,'' Peters said. "They got one really big hit off her that obviously was the game-winning hit and RBI. I was very proud of her and very proud of our defense for the most past.''
Becca Proper singled, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sami Stadts and scored when Allison Underwood hit a ball back to the mound deflected off Mitt's glove to second baseman Haley Wroten, whose throw to first base was wild.
The Lancers tied the score in the top of the third inning on a single by Katie Belleville, a wild pitch, a grounder to third base by Fields and a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Brittany Hodge.
Hodge's bunt was so well-placed in front of the plate that the Panthers had no play at either home or first base.
O'Fallon first baseman Taylor Underwood turned in the defensive play of the game by leaping to grab a liner off the bat of Haley Gegelman in the fourth inning.
Underwood then tagged first base to double off Andrea Roberts, who had led off the inning by drawing a walk.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.