NORMAL — Missed opportunities came back to haunt the Edwardsville Tigers.
Lincoln Way-East's Blake Ruiz drove in three runs, including the go-ahead run during a two-run rally in the top of the eighth inning, as the Griffins beat the Tigers 4-3 Monday in the Class 4A Normal Softball Super-Sectional.
The Tigers had the their heart of their lineup coming up with runners at second and third and no outs in the bottom of the seventh inniing, but failed to score.
"We had three opportunties with a runner at third and less than two outs with our 3-4-5 up, and we didn't put the ball in play,'' Edwardsvile coach Lori Blade said. "When you get to a super-sectional and you do that, you're probably not going to come out on the winning end.''
The Tigers also had the tying run at second base with no outs in the bottom of the eighth, but couldn't get that runner home.
"We didn't have the timing today, and they did,'' Blade said. "We missed opportunties and when you get to the super, you can't miss opportunities and you have to be on your game.''
The Tigers end their season at 36-4.
"What a great season they had, and they can't just look at it from this game,'' Blade said. "They have to look at the entire season. Winning the conference, winning 36 games. I know they are disappointed right now, but what a great season.''
The Tigers will lose two seniors -- catcher Anna Walshleger and second baseman Olivia Nicholls -- to graduation.
"Those two seniors came up huge for us at big times, and they were good leaders for us,'' Blade said. "Tough shoes to fill.''
As for promise of next season, Blade said, "Yeah, we're going to return a lot, but this is a missed opportunity for our program.''
The Griffins (27-10) will play Orland Park Sandburg (23-15) at 3 p.m. Friday at the EastSide Centre in East Peoria in the semifinal round of the Class 4A State Tournament.
Sandburg beat Naperville Central 4-2 Monday in the North Central College Super-Sectional.
The Griffins scored two runs in the top of the first inning.
Olivia Preito drew a walk and Eleni Kioussis reached on an infield single as her dribbler down the third-base line stayed in fair territory.
The runners moved to second and third on a ground out to Ari Arnold at shortstop by Jenny Van Geerty.
Van Gennep walked to load the bases for Ruitz, who drove a 1-2 offering from Loveless into the left-center field gap for a two-run double.
Van Gennep was thrown out at third on the play.
The Tigers got a run in the bottom of the first inning as Walshleger reached on a bunt single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Arnold and scoed on a double by Rachel Anderson.
The Tigers tied the score at 2-2 with a run in the sixth.
Anderson led off the inning with a double off the center field fence near the 210-foot mark.
Loveless bunted Anderson to third and Torrie Kruse brought Anderson home with a single to left field.
The Tigers had runners at second and third with no outs in the bottom of the seventh.
Olivia Nicholls doubled and Walshleger reached on a single.
Nicholls held at third on the slap bunt that dribbled off the third baseman's glove to spot vacated at shortstop who was covering second baseman.
"It was right in the line where neither one of us could see the ball until it was too late,'' Blade said. "Once we did see it, she had already come to a complete stop. That's on me. I wasn't in the right spot, I guess.''
After Walshleger stole second, Arnold hit a grounder to the first baseman, who threw home in time to get Nicholls.
Anderson walked to load the bases, but Van Gennep got out of the jam by striking out Loveless and Kruse.
"At that point, I'm just trying to keep myself calm and realize that I have my team behind me and we'll be fine,'' Van Gennep said.
Van Gennep, who struck out seven and walked four, said she went to her curveball to get the two key strikeouts.
Kioussis singled and Van Geerty was hit by a pitch to start the eighth inning for the Griffins.
Ruiz and Nicole O'Donnell hit back-to-back RBI singles with one out to put the Griffins ahead 4-2.
Haylee Green and Jordan Corby hit back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the eighth.
Kateyn Bobrowski popped out to first base and Nicholls flew out to right field. Corby advanced to third on Nicholls' flyball.
Van Gennep got Walshleger to hit a fly ball to shallow left field for the final out. Van Geerty charged in and made a basket catch to send the Griffins to the state tournament for the first time since 2007.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.