The reaction from the umpire’s call at home plate at the end said it all for Lexi Williams and the Belleville East Lancers on March 20.
Williams, a junior second baseman, doubled with one out and came home from third on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the host Lancers an exhilarating 2-1 walk-off win at Rita Menke Field.
That capped a tremendous day for Williams, who went 2-for-3, was solid in the field, and scored the game-winner after East had tied it 1-1 in the seventh on freshman infielder/outfielder Taylor Sparks’ RBI single.
“It felt really good and I was really happy (to score the run) and my teammates were really happy, so it was a good day,” Williams said.
“I thought Lexi just had an amazing game today for us,” Belleville East coach Natalie Peters said. “She played great defense at second base and she had the big hit in the eighth inning for us.”
Pitching dominated early as Highland hurler Sam Miener and Belleville East pitcher Stephanie Bigham matched zeroes through the first three innings.
Highland (0-2) missed its best chance to take control early, failing to capitalize on a bases loaded, one out situation. Bigham induced Carly Mettler into a ground out at second with two out to erase the threat.
“Bases loaded in the first inning and we don’t push anything across (the plate),” Highland coach Glenn Nicholls said. “We could have broken it open early and our hitters are used to faster stuff from pitchers, but they were way out in front of this kid all day long and we just couldn’t adjust to her speed.”
The Lady Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the fourth, as Lexi Gilliam walked with one out and stole second. Maddie Adolph ripped a run-scoring single to center, chasing home Gilliam.
Highland later stranded runners in the fifth and sixth innings.
Miener, a hard-throwing sophomore, was brilliant for the Lady Bulldogs, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh before the Lancers (2-3) finally broke through.
Allysa Krausz led off with a single to center field and Bigham sacrificed her to second base. Kylee Crowder struck out on a 3-2 pitch but then Sparks slapped a 1-1 delivery down the right-field line to tie it 1-1.
In the top of the eighth, Miener, who had two hits, reached on an infield hit to third with one but was stranded as Bigham retired the next two Highland hitters.
Lilly Mentzer grounded to third to start the Lancers eighth before Williams smacked a 2-1 pitch to center for a double.
“It (the pitch) was literally right down the middle so it like ‘Oh this is nice,’ so I just put the barrel on it,” Williams said.
East catcher Abby Gray grounded out to first with Williams advancing to third. That brought Jackie Belzer to the plate and Williams — who was running on contact with two out — raced home to score the game-winner when a Miener delivery skipped toward the backstop.
“Coach Peters said go and I just went for it,” Williams said. “It (the win) boosts our confidence because I think that once we know we can work together it will be easier for us to win even if we have young people on our team.”
The game’s final act was difficult to reconcile for the Lady Bulldogs.
“We were going to make them hit our pitch with the runner there on third base and I told her (Miener) just live on the corners. I didn’t think she would throw one away, but unfortunately she did,” Nicholls said.
Highland junior third baseman Sydney Parkerson was 3-for-4 with a double.
Bigham (2-3) struck out five and walked one to get the complete game win. Miener (0-2) gave up two runs on three hits, struck out eight and walked none as she took the loss.