BELLEVILLE — The Belleville East Lancers maximized their offense by packing all of it into one inning.
The Lancers collected all four of their hits during a four-run, fifth-inning rally as they beat the Edwardsville Tigers 4-2 Wednesday in the Class 4A Normal Softball Sectional.
"Sometimes it doesn't necessarily take a lot of hits, it takes stringing them together," East coach Natalie Peters said. "Our hitters did just an awesome job of stringing hits together. Everybody knows that hitting is contagious, and I think it gives the batter behind you confidence when you go up there and hit it hard."
Kayla Fields had a double to spark the rally and Alison Mitts, Andrea Roberts and Haley Wroten all had successive hits to help the Lancers erase a 1-0 deficit.
"All we talk about with East softball is getting singles after singles after singles, and that's exactly what we did," said Wroten, whose two-run double capped the rally.
The Lancers advenged a pair of 3-2 losses to the Southwestern Conference championTigers during the regular season.
The Lancers have beaten three SWC teams -- Belleville West, O'Fallon and Edwardsville -- to get to the sectional championship game for the first time since 2007.
"We told the girls, 'Look at this as a conference tournament,"' Peters said. "A lot of times in college, the people that win the conference don't win the conference tournament. We wanted to come out and win the conference tournament. Tonight, this is a championship of sorts to us."
The Lancers (30-7) will play the Normal West Wildcats (30-3) at 11 a.m. Saturday in the championship game of the Normal Community Sectional.
The Wildcats edged Moline 5-4 Wednesday in the semifinal round of the sectional.
The Tigers end the season with a 28-4 record. They had a 16-game winning streak snapped.
"You knew it was going to be a tough one," Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said of the matchup with the Lancers. "It's tough to beat good teams three times in a season.
"They're a quality team. They're looking to break through. Sometimes that is easier than continuing. When you've been there and experienced that, you have tendency to float along, and I think we did that at times. Today, they were a little more hungry than we were, I would say."
The Tigers got a run off East pitcher Alison Mitts in the first inning when Taylor Maggio walked, moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Rachel Anderson and scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by Amber Toenyes.
Toenyes took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, but ran into trouble after Fields doubled to left center with one out.
Fields scored on a throwing error by the shortstop off a grounder by Brittany Hodge.
Mits followed with a single to right field.
Roberts, who had walked in first two at-bats, including a free pass that she drew by fouling off numerous pitches after falling behind 0-2 in the count, hit an RBI sinlge off a 3-2 pitch from Toenyes.
"With two strikes, Coach Peters always tells us to put our warrior mentality on, to put the ball in play," Roberts said. "Not get a pop up or a strikeout, but make them make a play, and I believe that is what we did very well as a team. Getting that hit, it felt great. It hit the sweet part of the bat, and I knew as soon as I hit it that it was going to be a hit."
Wroten then doubled to right-center field, scoring pinch runner Rebecca Dahm and Roberts.
Blade then brought in sophomore pitcher Kallen Loveless, who retired the final eight East hitters in order.
"It's a game of inches and a game of timing of hits, and they just floated one over short and one over second and then got the gap shot," Blade said. "We didn't quit. We had our opportunities."
The Tigers got a run in the fifth.
Katelyn Bobrowski and Maggio both drew walks and hit a wind-blown pop up that second baseman Wroten couldn't handle.
Bobrowski scored, but Wroten kept her senses about her and quickly threw home to catcher Haley Gegelman, who applied the tag to Maggio for the third out.
"It erased the error," Wroten said.
"We talk in practice all the time about even if you make a mistake, look for the next play," Peters said. "Don't hang your head, don't pout. Haley just picked the ball up. I think she even pumped faked, and I'm like, 'Oh no,' but she stuck with it and we put a good tag down. That was definitely a game changer."
Mitts, who surrendered four hits in the game, worked out of trouble in both the sixth and seventh innings.
"She battled out there today," Peters said of Mitts. "Edwardsville is such a great team, and she is just a warrior. She has battled for us all year."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.