BELLEVILLE — In a year filled with ups and downs, the Belleville West Maroons roller-coaster season hit its peak on Wednesday at the Class 4A Belleville East Softball Regional.
Sophomore Olivia Young hit a pair of home runs and McKenzie Sisk put the booming bats of O'Fallon to rest for good with a complete-game effort as the Maroons stunned the Panthers with a 6-2 semifinal win.
Young broke up a pitcher's dual in the top of the fourth inning when she took a fastball down the middle from O'Fallon ace Addison Barnouski and hit a three-run home run over the center field fence.
The third-seeded Maroons (16-16) added a run on a wild pitch in the sixth inning then added a pair of insurance runs -- including a solo home run by Young -- in the seventh to take a 6-2 lead.
"The first one was pretty much down the middle and the second one was more outside. I was able to make good contact and they both went out. I don't remember the last time I hit two home runs in a game. I'm glad I did tonight,'' Young said. "We knew O'Fallon would be tough. We hit the ball well tonight.''
The win moves West into the regional title game against top-seeded Belleville East (27-9) at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The two city rivals split a pair of Southwestern Conference games with both teams winning on the opposing team's field.
"They beat us pretty good the first time (19-0) and we were able to beat them the last we played," West coach Casey Garrett said. "Hopefully it will be a good game on Saturday. I'm just glad we get to play them (East) again.
"Offensively we hit the ball well today. We were patient and we made her (Barnouski) wait on us. We had a good approach at the plate."
Young's first home run of the day gave the Maroons a three-run lead, but the second-seeded Panthers came right back in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Taylor Underwood cut the lead to 3-1 with a solo home run. Barnouski followed with a single and later scored on a single by Taylor Dichsen to cut the lead to 3-2.
But that was close as the Panthers would get.
"We had some chances in a couple of innings, but we just couldn't seem to get the big hit," Panthers interim head coach Kelly Paproth said. "Its been a great year and we accomplished a lot. It just ended much sooner then we hoped it would."
Barnouski wiggled out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the fifth, but Sisk responded with nearly flawless pitching over the final three innings.
Sisk, who retired nine of the last 10 hitters she faced, said the Maroon offense gave her a spark.
"The offense was great today and the defense made all the play all day,'' Sisk said. "I felt good. and was able to mixup the curve, changeup and screwball to keep them off balance.
"O'Fallon is a good team and we knew we had to play well to beat them. We did that."
West put the game away with two runs in the seventh inning. A walk to Kiri Evans followed by a sharp single by Alliyah St. John, her third hit of the day, put runners on first and second with nobody out.
Megan Glaeser then popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt and St. John was doubled off first base. But in an attempt to get Evans, the throw a wild and the Maroons leadoff hitter scored to make it 5-2.
Three pitches later, Young hit her second home run of the game to increase the Maroons' lead to 6-2.
O'Fallon had chance to score in the seventh inning, but Sisk closer the door on the Panthers season.
"McKenzie pitched well and she made big pitches when she needed too,'' Garrett said. "Overall, I'm very pleased. We're a young team and with a young team you are going to have peaks and valleys. We've had our share of both but I would say this is a real peak for us today.''