Lancers honor Menke by winning city championship

News-DemocratMay 12, 2014 

— Belleville East pitcher Alison Mitts and her teammates made sure nothing spoiled "Rita Menke Day.''

Mitts threw a five-inning no-hitter as the Lancers beat the Althoff Crusaders 13-0 Monday to capture the city championship in softball.

Mitts struck out 12. She faced two over the minimum of 15 batters as Lindsey Harris drew a one-out walk in the first inning and Kennedy Siims reached on an infield error leading off the fifth inning.

"Coach Menke like inspired everyone,'' Mitts said.

There was a large crowd on hand for the city game as the Lancers honored Menke, their former coach who is retiring from teaching at the end school year, during a pregame ceremony.

"The girls were really excited to honor coach today and they wanted to stay focused and play a good game for her,'' East coach Natalie Peters said. "They did that, so I'm sure she'll be happy about that.''

Though she never played for her, Mitts said she has known Menke since she started attending Belleville East's summer camp when she was 8 years old.

"Camp was my favorite thing when I was little,'' Mitts said. "Not just because all of the other girls, but because she ran it so well.''

The Lancers improved to 24-5. They beat Belleville West 19-0 on April 22, so they outscored their two city rivals 32-0 in winning the city championship.

"We've definitely been struggling offensively, so it was good to see more line drives today,'' said Peters, whose team collected eight hits. "We'll try to get our mechanics back and get it together for the home stretch.''

Haley Wroten and Lindsey Mossman each had two hits for the Lancers.

The Crusaders, who are in rebuilding mode under first-year coach Carol Belleville, dropped to 2-15.

Belleville coached at Grant Junior High, which feeds into Belleville East. She is familiar with a lot of the Lancers' players.

"There are six or eight kids out here who played junior high ball for me,'' Belleville said. "It's a whole different scenario. I tell these girls when we play teams like this, 8-1 and 6-0, that's what I expect to see.

"When we have games where we don't make so many errors and don't give them so many runs, we see that we can compete with these teams. We're not going to compete at that level, but we can be a spoiler to some teams. Holding good teams to 6-0, 8-0, 8-1, that's a good game for us.''

Belleville had two daughters, Carrie and Katie, who played softball for Belleville East, so she's well-aware of Menke's impact on the Lancers.

"It's a great day for Rita,'' Belleville said. "She's truly, truly an inspiration to anybody, teaching-wise or coaching-wise.''

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

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