BELLEVILLE — It was a wild game with more twists and turns than an amusement park ride, and the final swerve went in favor of the Belleville East Lancers.
The Lancers rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat the O'Fallon Panthers 12-11 on Thursday in a Southwestern Conference softball game.
"I think it was the ugliest softball I have ever seen in my life, but it feels a lot better coming out on the winning side of that than the losing side of that,'' East coach Natalie Peters said. "We kind of needed a break this week, and we got it tonight. That's OK. We'll take it.''
The Panthers trailed 8-7 going into the top of the seventh, but Becca Proper led off with a game-tying solo homer.
The Panthers added three more runs to go up 11-8, setting up the Lancers' improbable comeback in the bottom half of the inning.
"Both teams kept battling, and to me, that shows a lot of character,'' Peters said. "When you make a lot of mistakes, which I think both teams did, you can pout and give up or you can say, 'I'm going to try to come back and have a good at-bat and make something happen offensively.' I was very proud of our team in that aspect.
"I couldn't really tell you what happened most of the game, but I know there were some really big clutch hits.''
Mackenzie Vollmer drew a walk and Katie Belleville singled to start off the bottom of the seventh.
Kayla Fields tripled, bringing home both Vollmer and Belleville.
After Brittany Hodge walked, Alison Mitts hit a bloop single on the infield to bring home Fields with the tying run.
Andrea Roberts hit a grounder to the third baseman, who threw home for the first out of the inning.
Haley Wroten followed with a single and Haley Gegelman drove in the winning run with a grounder that got past the third baseman.
The Lancers improved to 27-6 overall and clinched at least at tie for second place in the SWC with a 10-4 record.
The Edwardsville Tigers captured sole possession with the SWC crown with a 3-2, 10-inning win over the Lancers on Wednesday.
The loss, which was the makeup game of a earlier contest that was called off because of lightning with the Panthers leading 11-0 in the top of the fourth inning, dropped the Panthers to 21-8 overall and 8-4 in the SWC.
"It hurts my heart that we came out here the first time and it was 11-0 and then it got called for rain,'' O'Fallon coach Kate Walsh said.
Both teams had 14 hits in the game.
Allison Underwood went 3-for-4 to lead the Panthers. Sam Ralphs, Taylor Underwood, Addison Barnouski and Proper all chipped in two hits apiece.
"I'm proud of my team,'' Walsh said. "They battled back, especially in that seventh inning. You can't ask for anything more, and that (Proper's homer) was a bomb. They hit the ball really well. They had hard hits. It was a great game to get in before regionals.''
Fields and Roberts both went 3-for-5 and Mitts and Gegelman both drove in three runs.
"We came back from being down multiple times,'' Peters said. "Obviously, Kayla's triple is huge, and Kate Belleville had another great night tonight. She was awesome last night, and she was awesome tonight. There were tons of people who stepped up tonight offensively.
"I think almost every batter put the ball in play all night long. It was definitely an exciting game to watch.''
Both teams brought in freshman pitchers in relief in the sixth inning.
East's Angela VanderPluym replaced Mitts with one out in the top of the sixth, while Barnouski replaced starter Taylor Bowlby going into the bottom of the sixth for O'Fallon.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.