Belleville West senior Alliyah St. John has been getting maximum use of her speed since returning to the Maroons’ lineup from an ankle injury she suffered nearly three weeks ago.
In her second game back, a 7-5 win over O’Fallon Tuesday, she legged out a double and a triple, ran down two hard-hit balls to the left-center field gap, and stole home for the game-tying run. The center fielder even gunned down a runner at home plate.
And as soon as the game was over, she sprinted straight off the field so she wouldn’t be late for her speaking engagement at a middle school graduation.
“Alliyah has been amazing since she came back from her injury,” said West coach Casey Garrett. “She’s brought some spark to the top of the lineup and has made some great plays in the outfield.”
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St. John sprained her ankle in a game against Edwardsville on April 24 and missed seven games. She was 3-for-4 with a home run in her first game back last Thursday, a loss at Edwardsville, and it was her daring swipe of home in the fifth inning that turned the game West’s way against O’Fallon on Tuesday.
Down 3-2 with one out, St. John doubled to put runners on second and third. Emily Fulton got down the sacrifice bunt, but a fake throw toward first by O’Fallon starting pitcher Addison Barnouski baited the runner at third, West’s Megan Glaeser, into a rundown.
Glaeser was tagged out at home and Barnouski began the walk back to her position, but St. John never broke stride, rounding third and crossing the plate to tie the game, 3-3.
“I didn’t tell her to do that, it was just a heads up play,” Garrett said. “The catcher and pitcher split up and Alliyah was able to catch them off guard. I try not to say much to Alliyah when she’s running the bases, because she has tremendous instincts on her own. She’s a very smart base runner, plus she’s fast.”
Just as aggressively, Fulton advanced all the way to third during the play and scored the go-ahead run on an error.
The Maroons scored an insurance run in the sixth when third baseman Morgan Hinkle doubled and scored on a ground out by Isabella Holtrop. They added two more in the seventh when St. John tripled home Glaeser, then scored herself on a ground ball to the pitcher off the bat of Olivia Young.
“We did a good job moving runners over with sacrifice bunts and we put the ball in play and challenged their defense,” said Garrett. “”We would have liked to have had more than three hits in the game, but we did the things we had to do to take advantage of the opportunities we were given.”
Holtrop, a sophomore, got the win in the pitcher’s circle, striking out eight and walking just two.
The Maroons improved to 17-10 with the win and are 7-5 in the Southwestern Conference. West has seven more games remaining before entering play in a very balanced Belleville East Class 4A Regional, which includes O’Fallon and Collinsville as well as the host team.
For O’Fallon (10-15 overall, 5-7 in conference) the loss was a step backward. After a stretch in which they had lost nine of 10, the Panthers regrouped to win five of their last seven, including three conference games.
Catcher Ginger Huskey had two of O’Fallon’s eight hits against West, and Barnouski scattered three hits while striking out five. But the Panthers’ committed four errors, issued three walks and left five runners standed in scoring position.
“We beat ourselves today,” said O’Fallon coach Kelly Paproth. “If we play to our potential — and that means playing error-free and capitalizing on our opportunities — I’m completely confident that we can beat anybody. We just didn’t do that today.”
The Panthers scored three run in the third on RBI singles by Barnouski and Sami Stadts. O’Fallon made a late charge when Huskey doubled and Cassie Brown singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Jordan DeRemer hit a sacrifice fly to left and Brown scored on the Maroons’ only error of the game to make it 7-5.
But Holtrop got a strike out to end the game with the tying runs on first and second.