NEW ATHENS — In game that had several defensive lapses, Okawville catcher Janel Lake pulled off a defensive gem.
Lake turned a game-ending double play on attempted suicide squeeze bunt in the top of the seventh inning as the Rockets held off the New Athens Yellow Jackets 6-5 Saturday in the championship game of the Class 1A New Athens Softball Regional.
With runners at second and third and trailing by a run, New Athens coach Conrad Widdersheim called for a suicide squeeze with No. 3 hitter Cheyenne Muffo at the plate.
Muffo popped the ball up, and Lake dove head first to catch the ball right in front of the plate. She then threw from her knees to shortstop Jessie Klasing, who was covering third base, to double off runner Courtnie Niederbrach.
"I told my assistant coach, 'She threw that ball from her knees falling down and she hit it right on the money. Right on the money,'" Okawville coach Kristen Storey said. "I'm sure proud of Janel.''
Lake said the ball was in fair territory when she caught it.
"I think it was right in front of the plate, a little bit towards third base,'' Lake said. "I wasn't sure where it was going. I was just like, 'I have to get it.'"
The regional title was the first for the Rockets since 2002.
"I told the girls that I had two goals this season, and that was have a better than .500 season and the other was to win a regional title,'' Storey said. "I got both of those, so I am pretty happy."
Lake and most of her teammates were just starting grade school the last time the Rockets celebrated a regional championship.
"It means a lot to our seniors because we wanted to go out with a bang, and this is one way we can,'' Lake said.
The Rockets (17-10) will play Wayne City at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Class 1A Odin Sectional.
Wayne City beat Woodlawn 9-4 Saturday in the championship game of the Woodlawn Regional.
The Yellow Jackets ended the season at 13-9.
"I applaud my girls for the fight they gave,'' Widdersheim said. "What I told the girls after the game is basically when you come to play big games, teams are going to put pressure on you. It's all about how you react to the pressure.
"The sixth inning we succumbed to the pressure a little bit, and Okawville took advantage of it. Full advantage.''
The Yellow Jackets broke a 2-2 with a two-run single by Denae White in the top of the sixth inning, but Rockets pushed across four runs in the bottom of the sixth.
The rally was aided by three consecutive fielding errors off grounders by Kaylyn Fuhrhop, Megan Wienstroer and Lake.
Macy Wienstroer singled home a run to cap the rally.
In the top of the seventh, freshman pinch-hitter Georgia Park and Niederbrach singled.
Aleen Dutkanych bunted the runners to second and third.
Alina Lance hit a grounder to the second baseman, who unwisely threw home. Park beat the throw.
Widdersheim was then faced with the tough call of either trying to squeeze home the trying run or having Muffo swing away.
"You could go either way,'' Widdersheim said. "Cheyenne is an excellent hitter. She batted really well over the course of the season, but at the same time, being an excellent athlete and an excellent hitter, she's also an excellent bunter. That's what I was looking at. Get another run to secure that tie at least.''
The Rockets scored two runs in the first inning.
Madalyn Fuhrhop led off with a single and Kaylyn Fuhrhop reached base on a botched force play at second base.
Madalyn Fuhrhop scored on a ground out to the shortstop by Megan Wienstroer and Kaylyn Fuhrhop scored on a single by Janel Lake that got past the left fielder.
The Yellow Jackets tied the score in the fourth on an RBI double by Abby Marlow and an RBI single by Kelsie Ruhmann.
Okawville pitcher Jolyn Lake allowed six hits and three earned runs. She struck out three and walked two.
"It takes the whole team to win a ballgame,'' Storey said. "We pieced some hits together, scored some runs and made some plays when we needed to. That's what good teams do, and I hope we can carry this into the sectional.''
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.