BELLEVILLE — Pitcher Addison Barnouski and the O'Fallon Panthers showed no signs of rust after an eight-day layoff due to the recent wet weather.
Barnouski threw a three-hit shutout and went 3-for-4 at the plate to help her own cause as the Panthers blanked the Belleville West Maroons 7-0 on Friday in a Southwestern Conference softball game,
"She came out looking really good,'' O'Fallon coach Kelly Paproth of Barnouski. "I was really pleased since we haven't had a game for over a week. It was good. Everybody came out and performed.''
The Panthers (21-9, 10-2) remain on a collision course with the Edwardsville Tigers (25-3, 10-2) in the Southwestern Conference.
The Panthers will be at home against Alton on Tuesday, while the Tigers host Collinsville the same day.
If they both win, it'll be a winner-take-all matchup for the SWC title when they play Thursday at the O'Fallon City Park.
"It would be amazing to win conference,'' Barnouski said.
The Maroons (12-15, 7-5) will get a rematch with the Panthers. The two teams play in the semifinals of the Belleville East Regional on May 28.
Knowing they will play Panthers in the postseason, the Maroons switched things up and went with Isabella Holtrop on the mound.
Holtrop allowed 11 hits and seven runs, but only two of those runs were earned.
"We're struggling with our consistency,'' West coach Casey Hunter said. "One day we'll have pitching and our defense struggles a little bit. We're working every day on staying focused. We have to work on our mental game right now.''
The Panthers got their first run in the second as Barnouski singled and Molly Dumstorff walked.
Barnouski went to third on a passed ball and scored on a grounder to the first baseman by Taylor Dichsen.
The Panthers added three runs in the third.
Sam Busekrus led off with a single and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Taylor Underwood.
Barnouski then hit a two-run double to left field.
The Panthers got two more runs in the fifth on an RBI groundout by Underwood and an RBI single by Barnouski. Sami Stadts reached on an error and Becca Proper singled to trigger the rally.
Barnouski is hitting .395 for the season. She has 19 RBIs.
"I've been in kind of a slump, so it felt really good getting three hits this game,'' Barnouski said. "It brought up my confidence.''
The Panthers pushed across their last run in the sixth, as Dichsen and Allison Underwood both singled, Busekrus bunted them to second and third and Dichsen scored on a wild pitch.
The Maroons stranded five runners in the first two innings, including the bases loaded in the second.
"We haven't played a game in almost a week, and I think effected us a little bit,'' Hunter said. "We came out flat. We couldn't get any momentum going.''
The Panthers had a runner thrown out at the plate in the first inning as Jordan DeRemer reached on a one-out walk, stole second and tried to score on a single by Proper.
"We've been working on continuing to keep the energy level up even when we get ahead and not stop, and we did a good job of applying that today,'' Paproth said.
Barnouski retired 16 of the last 17 batters she faced, including the last 10 in a row.
Hunter said the Maroons needed to more patient at the plate like they were in the early innings.
"The last few innings, she only threw 7-to-9 pitches an inning,'' Hunter said. "You're not going to get anything done when a pitcher is throwing that few of pitches.''
O'Fallon second baseman Jordan DeRemer was injured trying to score from second base on a two-out single by Proper in the first inning.
West center fielder's Alliyah St. John's throw was on the mark and catcher Hannah Slimack applied to the tag to DeRemer, who hurt her knee sliding and had to leave the game.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.