Amanda Dermody maintained her torrid post-season pace in leading the Belleville East Lancers to their first IHSA sectional softball championship in 10 seasons Saturday in Normal.
The senior center fielder blasted two home runs — including a first-inning grand slam — and had five runs batted in a 9-0 win over Normal West to send the Lancers to Monday’s 4A super-sectional.
Belleville East (30-6) will face Lincoln-Way East (28-3) on the campus of Illinois State University on Monday at 4:30 p.m. The winner advances to the state tournament, which begins Friday.
“It feels really good to be at this point because of all the hard work we’ve all put in,” said Dermody, who surprised everyone with a bunt single in the fourth inning. “This team just gets along really well and we trust each other. That’s the biggest thing.”
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Earlier in the season, Dermondy batted as low as seventh in the Lancer lineup. But in four post-season games in the cleanup spot, she’s hitting 12-for-16 with a double, a triple, three home runs and nine RBIs.
“Dermody represents our softball program and it makes me emotional because she is just one of those kids who just works her tail off,” said East coach Natalie Peters. “She’s come a long way since last year and to see all her hard work paying off for her is just awesome. I’m super proud of her — we all are.”
Junior pitcher Kristina Bettis also has found a renewed post-season focus. She shut out Normal West on two hits Saturday, while striking out five and walking none. She was perfect in five of seven innings.
In four games since starting regionals in Springfield, Bettis has struck out 19 batters and allowed just four earned runs.
Two things, she says, has bolstered her confidence to challenge the strike zone — the Lancers’ recent propensity for getting an early lead, and a defense that in four post-season games has committed just two errors.
“You just try to get ahead of batters and let the defense make plays,” the junior pitcher said. “And you have so much more confidence when you can come out in the second inning with a six-run lead.”
Dermody’s grand slam set the tone early by putting the Lancers on top 4-0 before Normal West starter Bailey Turner recorded her first out. East sent 11 batters to the plate that inning, with Mackynzee Dalle and lead-off hitter Jessica Belzer each picking up RBIs on bases-loaded hit-by-pitches.
Dermody made it 7-0 with a solo home run with one out in the second, followed by another solo bomb by sophomore shortstop Alyssa Krausz, who had also doubled in the first.
Dalle scored the Lancers’ ninth run in the sixth on a botched pick-off attempt at third base.
“I think we came in with a lot of aggressiveness today,” Peters said. “The further you get into the post season, the less and less you know about the other team, so we just try to focus on ourselves and the kind of game we want to play. Stay in the moment —that’s what we’ve been able to do.”
Belleville East last won a state championship under coach Rita Menke in 2003 and finished fourth the following season. The Lancers last qualified in 2006, Peters’ first season as head coach.