Late rally helps Tigers take crown at O'Fallon

News-DemocratApril 19, 2014 

— Down to their last out and trailing by five runs, the Edwardsville Tigers just kept swinging.

Kallen Loveless' two-run single capped a six-run rally in the top of the seventh inning as the Tigers edged the O'Fallon Panthers 12-11 Saturday to claim the championship of the O'Fallon Softball Tournament.

The Tigers (15-2) were an offensive juggernaut as they scored 57 runs-- an average of 11.4 runs per game -- in going 5-0 at the two-day, round-robin tourney.

"Actually, I wasn't surprised," Tigers second baseman Ari Arnold said of the comeback win. " I knew we weren't going to go down without a fight."

Arnold went 4-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored in the game. She had a single during the Tigers' game-winning rally.

"We all have the mentality and Coach (Lori) Blade always tells us to push it on to the next kid," Arnold said.

It was the second heart-breaking loss of the day for the Panthers (14-7), who earlier gave up two runs in the bottom of the seventh in a 4-3 loss to Dupo.

"The first game we dropped today against Dupo, the same situation," O'Fallon coach Kelly Paproth said. "Seventh inning, two outs and we didn't close the deal. We have to find a way to work it through and win those games."

With their aces on the shelf, both teams went to a pitcher-by-committee approach in the game.

Loveless, Edwardsville's top pitcher, was unavailable because she threw in the Tigers' 10-0 win over Du Quoin on Saturday morning.

"I'm not going to do that to Kallen as much as she wanted to throw," Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said of sending Loveless back to the mound against O'Fallon. "There are bigger games down the road than this."

Addison Barnouski, O'Fallon's top pitcher, didn't pitch Saturday after taking a line drive off her chest against Du Quoin on Friday.

Barnouski was able to bat Saturday, serving as the designated player for both of her team's games.

"The most important thing, whether she can play or not, is that she is safe and she is healthy," Paproth said of Barnouski. "That's all I care about."

Both teams had 17 hits in the game.

Busekrus, Sami Stadts, Becca Proper and Taylor Underwood all had three hits for the Panthers.

Underwood clubbed a three-run homer in the third inning to pull the Panthers in front 5-4.

The Tigers tied the score at 5-5 on back-to-back doubles by Arnold and Rachel Anderson in the fourth.

The Panthers scored three runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to take an 11-6 lead,

The Panthers would have gotten more runs in the sixth if Anderson hadn't made a diving catch on Allison Spihlman's pop fly to shallow center for the final out of the inning.

"I knew if anything got hit in the air, I had to catch it," Anderson said. "I didn't want anymore runs being scored."

"That saves the game," Blade said.

In the top of the seventh, Kruse led off with a single.

After Hayli Green hit into a force play at second base, Megan Radae singled.

Katelyn Bobrowski popped out and Olivia Nicholls walked to load the bases.

Pinch-hitter Jordan Corby doubled home two runs to cut O'Fallon's lead to 11-9. Arnold, Anderson and Loveless all followed with singles.

Stadts reached base on a two-out error in the bottom of the seventh, but sophomore pitcher Jordan Garella got through the top of the Panthers' batting order.

A young Dupo squad had a roller-coaster day as Savannah Maldonado tripled home two runs in the bottom of the seventh against O'Fallon in its first game, but then got shutout 9-0 by Triad in its second game.

"One of the things we haven't done has been resilient, and that was the second game that we battled back when it looked like we were all but done," Dupo coach Greg Pennock said of the comeback win over O'Fallon. "That's a sign that you are growing up a little bit. Even though we dug ourselves the hole, we were able to fill enough dirt in and keep walking off the dirt until we were able to get up out of the hole."

Triad, which also beat Piasa Southwstern 15-2, banged out 30 hits in its two games on Saturday.

Jenn Bailey went 5-for-7 with three doubles, a homer and three RBIs, while Beth Mersinger went 6-for-8 with two doubles and four RBIs.

Bailey also struck out 17 on her way to a three-hit shutout in the win over Dupo.

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

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