EDWARDSVILLE — Flawless against the rest of the Southwestern Conference softball competition, the Belleville East Lancers still have no answer for the Edwardsville Tigers.
An East squad that is 20-2 against everyone else this season fell to 0-2 against the Tigers after dropping a 3-1 conference decision Tuesday that ended the Lancers' 11-game winning streak.
Now Belleville East (20-4, 5-2) and Edwardsville (21-3, 7-2) join O'Fallon and Belleville West with two conference losses.
"They were definitely the better team today," Belleville East coach Natalie Peters said. "It's just frustrating because I feel like there's two games all year that we've played poorly in and it just happened to be these two games. That's something we've got to get figured out."
Edwardsville pitcher Kallen Loveless (13-1) held the Lancers to a pair of singles while striking out six. She was staked to a 2-0 lead in the first as the Tigers rallied with two outs on an RBI single by Loveless and Torrie Kruse's RBI double to left.
"She has a lot of different pitches and I think that we were taking a lot of early strikes, so she was ahead of us," Peters said of Loveless. "Any time as a pitcher when you're ahead of the batter, you can work a lot more of your junk and throw it off the plate a little bit and try to get the batters to chase.
"She did a good job of that."
Seven of Edwardsville's nine starters are hitting .406 or higher and the lowest average in the lineup is .320. The Tigers had nine hits Tuesday against East pitcher Alison Mitts (17-4).
"We battled to put the ball in play," Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said. "All I do is ask the kids to compete -- every at-bat, every pitch, every play -- and for the most part they do that. That's all we can ask for and good things happen when you dig in, work hard and compete."
Blade has enjoyed watching this group mature as hitters and players.
"This junior class, the majority of them have played since they were freshmen," she said. "They're finally strong enough mentally and physically to compete with juniors and seniors and kids their own age.
"We had a three-week stand there where we hit everything and it didn't matter (who it was) one through nine. I don't think we've ever had, up and down the lineup, such high batting averages as this group has. They've actually hit the ball hard the majority of the season."
Mitts worked out a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the second by striking out Anna Walschleger and Ari Arnold and retiring Rachel Anderson on an infield popout.
"I thought we had an opportunity to really break it open and she stepped it up that one inning," Blade said of Mitts. "That's what good pitchers do. That's an all-conference pitcher and she did a great job getting us out bases loaded, nobody out with the top of the lineup up."
The Lancers might have built momentum off of that, but it never materialized.
East got its lone run in the fifth when Erinn Henry singled leading off the inning and scored when Mitts blasted a hard shot off Edwardsville's Olivia Nicholls at second base.
"They're good hitters, they have good swings and they hit the ball hard," Blade said. "We've just been fortunate to string together the two (wins) and hold them to one (run) and then score a few more."
Edwardsville scored its other run in the fourth on doubles by Katelyn Bobrowski and Walschleger. Walschleger's was a shot off the fence in center.
Peters credited the Edwardsville offense for making things happen.
"They were making really good adjustments and they were hitting some pitches that they don't usually hit," she said. "As a hitter you have to be able to do that and we just didn't do that today."
Belleville East's loss leaves four teams battling for the title with two SWC losses.
"That's all we could ask for after putting ourselves behind here," Blade said. "When you lose two like we did, all you can hope for is to come in and beat East again and gives ourselves a chance. We have, now we've got to take care of our own business."