NEW ATHENS — Okawville pitcher Janel Lake trusts that her defense will make the plays behind her at critical times.
Lake scattered seven hits to lead the top-seeded Rockets past the fourth-seeded Marissa Meteors 3-1 Tuesday in the first round of the Class 1A New Athens Softball Regional.
"Having a solid defense behind you is always a big plus,'' Lake said. "When you can throw a pitch, and you know your defense is behind you, that's a big thing for a pitcher.''
The Meteors stranded five runners and popped into two double plays off bunts.
"We played catch,'' Okawville coach Kristen Storey said. "We had a couple of double plays, and if you don't play catch there, that can turn into something big. I felt we played catch and we made the plays when we needed to.''
The Meteors had runners at first and second with two outs in the seventh inning when No. 9 hitter Brooke Inman drilled a hard liner to left field.
Okawville's Ashley Garlich initially took a step in, but she recovered in time to reach up and snare the liner for the final out.
"If that ball is a little higher, we score two runs and we tie it up, no question about it,'' Marissa coach Bryan Blomenkamp said.
"Not even something I want to think about,'' Storey said. "It was a hard hit. It was a laser right at her, and I think she came in one step and kind of lost her balance, but she made the play.''
The Rockets (16-10) advance to the championship game of the New Athens Regional, where they'll face either second-seeded New Athens or third-seeded Lebanon at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Rockets haven't won a regional since 2002. They lost to Marissa last year in the regional championship.
"It would be huge,'' Lake said of winning a a regional. "Our school has not done it since ... for us seniors, it would be big.''
The Meteors ended their season ay 7-18. They'll lose three senior starters, including pitcher Ashley Lehman, to graduation.
"We kept fighting,'' Blomenkamp said. "We have nothing to hang our heads about. At this time of the year, you have to be a good and a little lucky. We didn't have the luck today.''
The Rockets took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on back-to-back doubles by senior right fielder Jeni Skewes and freshman shortstop Jessie Klasing.
"She's really stepped up to the plate,'' Storey said of Klasing. "Defensively, I threw her out at shortstop one game. That was a spot that I was still iffy on, and I threw her out there and she's made every play and really stepped up in the batter's box as well. Getting hits at the big time or putting down the bunt.''
The Rockets added a run in the fourth inning when Lake singled, advanced to third on a double by Kaylyn Fuhrhop and scored on a sacrifice fly by Megan Wienstroer.
The Rockets made it 3-0 in the fourth inning when Klasing singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Garlich, advanced to third on an infield single by Fuhrhop and scored on a delayed squeeze on a bunt by Lake.
The Rockets had 10 hits in all, including three by Fuhrhop and two each by catcher Janel Lake and Klasing.
The Meteors broke through for a run against Jolyn Lake in the sixth.
Katie Shubert singled and Nici Coke reached on an error. Christa Hill drove in Shubert with a single.
In the seventh, Danille Rude singled with one out, and Madison Rackley reached on an error.
Jolyn Lake got a pop out to first base and then the line out to left field to preserve the win.
"She moved in and out with her pitches,'' Storey said. "I thought she worked it around the zone really well today. Her and sister her work pretty well, pitch and catch. We're always pretty confident when Jolyn is on the mound.''
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.