Lancers claim first regional title in softball since 2007

News-DemocratMay 25, 2013 

— It wasn't a terribly long drought by some standards, but it felt like an eternity for the tradition-rich Belleville East Lancers.

Junior pitcher Alison Mitts scattered six hits as the Lancers beat the O'Fallon Panthers 6-1 on Saturday in the championship game of the Class 4A Belleville East Softball Regional.

It was the first regional title for the Lancers since 2007.

"It has been a big drought here for Belleville East softball,'' East coach Natalie Peters said. "We knew we had a great team this year, and we were so excited when we found out even before the season started that we got to host a regional.

"Our whole theme was: "Bring it back.' I'm so proud of the girls. They did a great job.''

Peters said the drought was a taboo subject until this year when she decided to talk openly about ending it.

"For a couple of years, nobody really talked about it,'' Peters said. "We came out this year and said, 'We're going to talk about this. We're going to get over it.' We knew we had a special group of seniors.

"There are three awesome seniors on our team, and we have kids that have grown up watching Lancer softball. This means a lot to them. It doesn't get any better.''

For the Lancers' seniors, it was realization of a goal that they've been chasing for four years.

"It's been long and it has been hard during my four years here,'' East senior center fielder Kayla Fields said. "We've been wanting it, and we got it with hard work and dedication.''

"I wanted it so bad,'' Belleville East senior left fielder Katie Belleville said. "Just to beat O'Fallon in general and then getting to go play Edwardsville, it is going be great. Memories.''

The Lancers (29-8) advance to the Normal Community Sectional. They'll play the Edwardsville Tigers (29-3) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Belleville West High School.

The Tigers beat the Alton Redbirds 11-1 Saturday in the championship game of the Granite City Regional.

Mitts was roughed up for six runs by West on Wednesday, but she kept the O'Fallon hitters off balance all game.

"Alison was unbelievable,'' Peters said. "She struggled against Belleville West, and she just got after it the last two days at practice. She figured a couple of things out. She got ahead of the batters today, and she had so many different pitches working.''

Mitts said she went back to basics after the Lancers' 7-6 win over the Maroons.

"My mechanics were just awful that game,'' Mitts said. "The last couple of days, I have been working on that. I've been getting a lot of help from my coaches.''

Mitts struck out five, walked one and got the Panthers to pop up six times on the infield and fly out six times to the outfield.

"We were hitting a lot of fly balls, which hurt us today,'' O'Fallon coach Kate Walsh said. "She threw a great, great game. That's probably one of the best games I've seen her throw.''

The Panthers ended their season at 23-9.

They'll lose senior pitcher-designated Taylor Bowlby and senior leadoff Sam Ralphs. Bowlby is headed to Bradley University, while Ralphs is headed to Maine.

"Our seniors are going to have great college careers because they are great ballplayers,'' Walsh said. "We are pretty young and inexperienced at the varsity level, so for them to come out and play the way we did this season, I'm proud of my team.''

With Bowlby bothered by a sore arm, Walsh went with freshman Addison Barnouski as her starting pitcher.

Bowlby entered the game with one out in the fourth inning with the Panthers trailing 5-0. She allowed one run on one hit the rest of the way.

"Yesterday, she was hurting pretty bad, so we decided to start Addie,'' Walsh said. "That's a tough situation for a freshman to be in. Taylor came in, and she looked good. I didn't want to start Taylor and have her get hurt and then have Addie come in one those big situations. That's kind of the strategy behind that.''

The Lancers seized a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Fields walked, stole second, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Brittany Hodge and scored on a grounder to the first baseman by Mitts.

"Anytime Kayla gets on base, it's positive for us,'' Peters said. "I don't really coach her much when she's on third base because she kind of does her own thing. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, she's going on that.' But, she made it.''

The Lancers added four runs in the fourth inning.

The rally started with a walk to Hodge and then three consecutive singles by Mitts, Andrea Roberts and Haley Wroten.

Haley Gegelman brought in a run with a grounder to the second baseman and Belleville drove in a run with a single.

The Panthers got their run in the sixth when Sami Stadts walked, moved to third on an error by the first baseman and scored on a single by Becca Proper.

The Lancers answered with a run in the bottom of the sixth.

Annie Eversman doubled to right field and later scored on a ground out to the shortstop by Mitts.

The Lancers got a scare in the fifth inning when O'Fallon's Molly Dumstorff hit a liner off Mitts' stomach.

Mitts remained in the game.

"It's just my stomach. It's all fat,'' Mitts joked.

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

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

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