EDWARDSVILLE — After getting out of a couple of early jams unscathed, Edwadsville senior pitcher Amber Toenyes settled in against the O'Fallon Panthers.
Toenyes threw a five-hit shutout as the Tigers beat the O'Fallon Panthers 5-0 Tuesday in a Southwestern Conference softball game.
Toenyes didn't allow a hit over the final three innings.
"That's big because they hit the ball so that they are going to put pressure on our defense, anybody's defense," Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said of the Panthers stranding seven runners over the first four innings. "Amber really battled today. The first three innings, they had kids in scoring position, and our defense, it bent today, but it didn't break.
"Lately, we've been breaking a little bit and not being solid behind our pitchers. We were (solid) today. We made the plays we needed to make."
The Tigers (14-3, 7-2) scored four runs on four singles and a walk in the third inning against O'Fallon pitcher Taylor Bowlby.
They added a run in the fourth inning as Hayli Green singled and later scored on a passed ball.
"We have to take advantage of the opportunities we have to score, especially against them," Blade said. "To shut them out is huge. They don't get shut out very often."
The game marked the first time this season that the Panthers (17-5, 7-2) have been shutout.
The Panthers committed three errors to go along with a few mental mistakes that don't show up in the box score.
"I thought Bowlby actually threw a very good game," O'Fallon coach Kate Walsh said. "We didn't play very solid behind her. We had a couple of bobbled balls where we could have possibly thrown home. Bowlby doesn't deserve that loss."
The SWC race has become a free-for-all with four teams -- Edwardsville, O'Fallon, Belleville East and Alton -- all having two losses in league play.
"These kids were disappointed in last week," said Blade, whose team lost 5-2 to Alton last week. "We've got a big week this week, and this is step one. For as young as we are, I'm very proud of them for bouncing back and not losing focus after last week."
The Tigers play another key conference game on Thursday at Belleville East.
The Panthers were coming off a 2-1 win over Belleville East on Monday.
"I definitely didn't want to do that, having our two most competitive games back-to-back, but it happens with the rain," Walsh said.
The Panthers hit Toenyes hard early, but failed to score.
Sam Busekrus singled and Taylor Bowlby doubled, putting runners at second and third in the first inning.
Toenyes got a line up to left field and a ground out to second base to end the threat.
In the bottom of the third, Aubry Dickmann singled, Taylor Maggio walked and Rachel Anderson singled to bring home Dickmann with the first run of the game.
Toenyes followed with an RBI single.
With one out, Torrie Kruse hit an RBI single and Ari Arnold brought in a run with a ground out to the shortstop.
Anderson and Toenyes each had two hits for the Tigers.
The Bradley University-bound Bowlby allowed seven hits, while striking out three and walking one.
The Eastern Illinois University-bound Toenyes struck out eight and walked three.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.