BELLEVILLE — Belleville East pitcher Alison Mitts had a rough day on the mound, but she made a heads-up defensive play to get the final out and keep the Lancers' season alive.
Mitts cut center fielder Kayla Fields' throw to the plate and fired to third for the final out as the Lancers held off the Belleville West Maroons 7-6 Wednesday in a Class 4A Belleville East Softball Sectional semifinal.
"She was in my vision,'' Mitts said of West freshman pinch runner Olivia Young. "That's like fundamentals. You don't think about that stuff, it just happens.''
East coach Natalie Peters was happy that her team was able to execute with perfection what they repeatedly work on in practice.
"We talked about how many times we practiced that this year, and it was executed perfectly,'' Peters said. "Kayla threw a perfect throw to cut, Mitts cut it and made a perfect throw to (Brittany) Hodge. For us, it was a great way to end the game.''
The second-seeded Lancers (28-8) will play the top-seeded O'Fallon Panthers (23-8) at 11 a.m. Saturday in the championship game of the Belleville East Regional.
The two teams met last week on the same field with East winning 12-11 in a slugfest.
"Everybody knows O'Fallon is going to score runs, and if we want to have a chance to beat them, then we have to produce more runs,'' Peters said.
The Maroons ended their season at 14-15. They'll lose four seniors -- pitchers Rebecca Touchette and Brittany Barlow, catcher Nadaley Wilson and shortstop Taylor Puuri -- to graduation.
"Big holes to fill,'' West coach Bob Yagge said. "I worked with a lot of young kids this year on the infield. They're going to be experienced. Whether or not they are going to be really good or not, we'll find out. I don't think we are going to be hurting real bad on defense, but the pitching and catching will be a question mark.''
With coach Casey Garrett on maternity leave, Yagge came out of retirement to coach the Maroons this season.
"At the season right now, I am regretting that we are one game short and a couple of runs short, but I enjoyed coming back and helping,'' Yagge said. "I always enjoy coaching.''
The Lancers scored four runs on five hits in the first inning.
Fields led off with a triple to right-center field and scored on a grounder back to the pitcher by Hodge.
Mitts and Andrea Roberts, who had three hits in the game, followed with singles and Haley Wroten drove in a run with a double.
Haley Gegelman drove in two runs with a single to right field.
The Maroons were down, but not out. They had 11 hits, including solo homers by Barlow and Danielle Touchette.
"I was telling them that when it was 4-0, a lot of people were thinking that game was over,'' Yagge said. "I never gave them the opportunity to think that. They have to fight. That's the only way they are going to get better. Face adversity and take it on. We did a pretty good job of that today.''
Barlow blasted a homer to left-center field leading off the second inning, but the Lancers pushed across two runs in the third inning on a walk to Mitts and consecutive singles by Roberts, Wroten and Gegelman.
An RBI double by Sara Wessel cut the Lancers' lead to 6-2 in the fourth inning.
Alliyah St. John and Danielle Touchette led off the fifth inning with singles and eventually came around to score as the Maroons closed the gap to 6-4.
The Lancers got an important insurance run in the fifth as Ryley Blomberg was hit by a pitch and later scored on a wild pitch.
In the seventh, Danielle Touchette led with a solo homer for the Maroons.
With one out, Rebecca Touchette singled and Barlow drew a walk.
Mitts got a fly out to left field for the second out, but Hannah Slimack singled up the middle to score Rebecca Touchette.
However, Young was caught trying to advance from first to third on the play.
"We took it right down to the wire, and we just had a base running mistake,'' Yagge said. "When you have young kids, you are going to get that once in a while. You like them being aggressive.''
Rebecca Touchette started and worked 2 1/3 innings before being relieved by Barlow.
Mitts struck out two and walked three.
"I just wasn't hitting my spots at all,'' Mitts said.
The Lancers beat the Maroons for the third time this season.
"We knew that West was going to be a really tough game for us,'' Peters said. "They played awesome. Luckily, we just scored one more than them.''
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.