Jessica Belzer provided two kinds of offense for the Belleville East Lancers on Tuesday.
The senior scored two runs of the small-ball variety to give the Lancers the lead, then smoked a big run-scoring triple in the sixth to cinch a 4-0 win over cross-town rival Belleville West.
“She just really gets us all hyped up if we’re down or even if we haven’t scored runs in a while,” said junior catcher Alex Boze, who drove Belzer home with a third-inning sacrifice fly. “But she makes adjustments during the game that helps us. She gets us hyped up even if she doesn’t say anything.”
Starting pitcher Kristina Bettis picked up her fifth win for East (6-1), allowing just two hits and striking out a pair. Runners reached on errors in the first and fifth and Bettis hit a batter in the seventh, but the Lancers’ defense was otherwise solid behind her.
“Kristina relies on her defense and she’s great defensively herself,” said East coach Natalie Peters. “She just pitches where it’s supposed to be pitched. She works really hard to hit her spots and get ahead of batters, which is what makes her successful.”
Belzer and the Lancers had to scrap out the early runs against Maroons’ junior Paige Cates, who was making her first start in the pitcher’s of the season. She struck out seven batters, including five of the first six she faced, and scattered just three Lancer hits through five and two-thirds inning.
But she also hit three batters, walked two and was victimized by three errors.
“It’s just hard practicing the physical and the mental part of the game when you haven’t been in one yet,” said West head coach Casey Garrett, whose team fell to 0-5 on the season. “I don’t think she wore down necessarily, she just lost her control.”
Belzer took a pitch in the back to lead off the game. She advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Kendall Patton and a throwing error. She scored on the first of five wild pitches by Cates.
Belzer led off the third with an infield single, advanced to second on another Patton sacrifice bunt, to third on an error, then scored on a fly ball to center field by Boze.
That was enough for the win, as Bettis retired just one more than the minumum through the final five innings. But Savannah Watts gave the Lancers some breathing room when she singled to lead off the sixth and scored on three straight wild pitches.
Sophomore shortstop Jackie Belzer walked with nobody out, then scored the game’s final run on her sister’s triple, a line drive down the right field line.
“Team always come back in the Southwestern Conference,” Peters said. “For Belz to come through with that triple was huge. It’s just more breathing room going into the bottom of the inning.”
Belzer finished the day 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. Boze had the only other RBI with her sacrifice fly. Watts had the only other hit.
Cates and freshman Claire Marlen had West’s two hits, both singles. Sophomore Megan Skaer faced one batter in relief of Cates.