O’Fallon sophomore Katie Moore was pressed into filling some big shoes in a big game while making her first varsity start in the pitcher’s circle.
She responded by holding Belleville East to just one unearned run while pitching around trouble late in the game to preserve a key 2-1 victory for the Panthers.
The win put O’Fallon ahead of East in the Southwestern Conference standings and has seeding implications for both the regional and sectional tournaments.
“She’s been working hard all season, she’s pitched in some games and I had all the confidence in the world in in Katie,” said O’Fallon coach Kelly Paproth. “We felt good going into this game.”
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15-4 (7-2) Alton
15-7 (5-4) Belleville East
Moore started in place of all-area senior Addie Barnouski, who has missed two games since injuring her back last week in a game against Alton.
But there was no panic, Moore said. She been taught to take each game one at time, regardless of the opponent or circumstances.
“I was a little nervous maybe before the game,” she said. “But I just tried to focus on keeping them off balance and trying to get ground balls.”
Moore faced just one more than the minimum through the first four innings. She worked her way out of trouble in the fifth and sixth innings, stranding two on with one out each time.
In all, Moore gave up five Lancer hits while walking none and hitting another. Her loan strikeout came against East’s cleanup hitter with the tying and go-ahead runs on second and third and one out in the sixth inning.
“We just talked about our normal game routine of sequences and keeping in comunication with her catcher,” Paproth said. “We approach every game the same way — calm and confident, play solid defense, everyone do their job, execute the plays you’re asked to execute. It wasn’t as clean as we have been, but they kept scratching.”
I was a little nervous maybe before the game. But I just tried to focus on keeping them off balance and trying to get ground balls.
Katie Moore, O’Fallon sophomore pitcher
East starter Kristina Bettis was nearly equal to the task, giving up one earned run on just two hits. The Lancers stranded six base runners.
“Kristina did her job, definitely, but we just didn’t do our job offensively,” said East coach Natlie Peters.
The Lancers scored first when second baseman Brooke Laidley roped a two-out double off the glove of the O’Fallon third baseman, who deflected the ball into foul territory. Bettis then hit a hard ground ball into left field to score Laidley.
O’Fallon tied the game in the bottom half of the fifth when Jordan DeRemer doubled and scored on an RBI single by Morgan Wyrostek. It might have been a two-run hit had East cather Alex Boze not gunned down Nikole Patterson in an attempt to steal second with runners on first and third.
But O’Fallon scored the winning run when Moore led off the bottom of the sixth by reaching on an error. She later scored on a bases-loaded squeeze bunt by Caroline Keller.
We’re not happy because we still don’t think we’ve played our best softball. We need to get better with each game until the end of the regular season.
Natalie Peters, Belleville East softball coach
Jessica Belzer singled to lead off the East half of the seventh and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Lindsey Mossman doubled with a line drive to center that froze by the centerfielder and Belzer, who advanced only to third.
The Lancers also put the tying run on second with one out, but Moore got out of the jam by coaxing consecutive ground ball outs.
“It doesn’t matter who you play because you have to beat everybody in the conference to get out of here anyway,” Peters said. “We’re not happy because we still don’t think we’ve played our best softball. We need to get better with each game until the end of the regular season.”
Belleville East (15-7, 5-4) next faces Granite City Thursday at 4:30 p.m. O’Fallon (14-6, 6-3) is at East St. Louis, also Thursday at 4:30 p.m.