Tigers claim SWC crown thanks to sophomore's first homer

News-DemocratMay 15, 2013 

— With one swing of her bat, sophomore Torrie Kruse enabled the Edwardsville Tigers to win the Southwestern Conference championship outright in softball.

Kruse's solo homer in the top of the 10th inning lifted the Tigers over the Belleville East Lancers 3-2 on Wednesday.

"It felt awesome," Kruse said. "I just had to focus and see that pitch out of the hand, and just zone in on me and the pitcher and not on all the noise going around."

On the first offering from East pitcher Alison Mitts, Kruse sent a towering drive over the left-field fence and into a tree bordering the field at the East softball diamond.

The homer was the first of Kruse's high school career.

"I think I probably shed a tear," Edwardsville pitcher Amber Toenyes said of seeing Kruse's homer. "She's the girl on the team that deserves that the most. She works her butt off every single day. She deserves that."

Kruse, who entered the game hitting .397, is known more as a line-drive hitter.

"She has a good swing," Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said. "She started out the year hitting the ball well and she's has kind of been struggling lately. She at least gave herself a chance with a good, solid swing that at-bat."

The Tigers (29-3) end up with a 12-2 record in the SWC despite dropping an early conference matchup against O'Fallon on April 4. Their other league loss came against Alton on April 25.

"We put ourselves behind that first week with the O'Fallon loss and then climbed back in," Blade said of the SWC race. "Then the Alton loss ... this is a very meaningful conference championship for this group."

The Lancers (26-6, 9-4) stranded 10 runners in the game. They had a runner at third with less than two outs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but failed to score.

"The one discussion we had the in the outfield right now was: Runner on third and one out, we have to score," East coach Natalie Peters said. "We had our fastest runners on third with one out, and we did not score tonight."

There was playoff-like atmosphere to the game, and Peters was thrilled to see her squad turn in a solid performance after committing seven errors in a 6-4 loss to Alton on Tuesday.

"I'll take how we played tonight a million times better over how we played last night," Peters said. "That's the discussion we just had. It was a great softball game, and their player stepped up and got the big hit, and we just could not do it today."

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third on a double by Taylor Maggio and single by Toenyes.

The Lancers tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the third when Brittany Hodge walked and scored on a single by Mitts that got past the center fielder.

The Tigers regained the lead in the fifth when Maggio stole home after the Lancers threw down to second base on a steal attempt by Rachel Anderson.

The Lancers knotted the score at 2-2 in the sixth when Mitts walked, pinch-runner Tawnee Kramer went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Haley Wroten and scored on a single by Andrea Roberts.

Toenyes got a key strikeout in the sixth to escape that jam without further damage.

"I actually pride myself on being pretty calm in sticky situations," Toenyes said.

Toenyes also wriggled out of jams in the seventh, eight and ninth innings. She got a pop up on a squeeze bunt attempt in the ninth.

"Amber made great pitches at key times and our defense did every thing they could do," Blade said. "They made every play with runners at third that we needed to do. Our defense was great tonight."

Toenyes threw nine innings before being relieved by Kallen Loveless in the 10th. Loveless retired the Lancers in order in the 10th to pick up the save.

Katie Belleville hit two doubles off the fence for the Lancers, who had seven hits in the game.

Mitts allowed six hits in going the distance for the Lancers.

"Alison was awesome," Peters said. "She has been our rock all year. She got out of some tough situations. She got frustrated offensively a couple of times and rebounded and came back and kept her composure."

Peters said she never considered relieving Mitts even though the Lancers play O'Fallon at 4 p.m. Thursday at East in another SWC game.

"I think we have to play in the moment, and it was her game," Peters said. "We were doing everything to fight and claw and win this game. She's a tough kid. She'll be ready to go tomorrow."

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service