The O’Fallon Panthers got the one big hit Belleville East didn’t.
In a game otherwise dominated by the pitchers, senior Nikole Peterson lined a bases-loaded triple in the fourth inning to give O’Fallon a big 3-2 Southwestern Conference win over the Lancers Tuesday.
East pitcher Kristina Bettis allowed just four Panthers hits and faced no more than four batters in any inning but the decisive fourth. Then she gave up a bloop single and walked a pair to load the bases for Patterson, one of four seniors on a roster dominated by underclassmen.
“She has really good location on her pitches,” Patterson said of the East junior pitcher. “She was pitching me inside and I couldn’t hit her, but she left out one and I was able to get solid contact.”
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O’Fallon freshman pitcher Hayleigh Juenger gave up nine hits to the Lancers, but she walked none and every one of her three strikeouts ended innings with runners in scoring position.
The Lancers stranded the tying runs at first and third base in the fifth inning.
“We had a good number of hits, just not the big one we needed,” said East coach Natalie Peters, who earned her 300th career victory last week at Alton.
O’Fallon is 11-9, but has now won three games in a row and five of its last six. Tuesday’s victory exacts some revenge for an 11-0 beating the Panthers took from East on April 6.
“This is some really good momentum right when we want it,” said O’Fallon first-year coach Lauren Muniz. “When we played them the first time we were not settled in yet. We’ve gotten better each day and from where Hayleigh was when she pitched them the last time to where she is now, she’s a completely different kid.”
East fell to 20-4 and suffered just its second conference loss.
“There were a couple close calls that didn’t go our way and just didn’t handle that adversity very well,” said East coach Natalie Peters. “This team hasn’t had to play from behind very much and when you’re playing from behind, the little things matter. I’m interested to see how the team responds.”
East got a single run in the fifth when Jackie Belzer singled home Alyssa Krausz. It got another in the seventh when Jasmine Poore hit a one-out triple and scored on a slap hit by junior Mackenzee Dalle.
Jessica Belzer and Alex Boze also had hits for the Lancers.
Miley Brunner had a pair of infield hits for O’Fallon and Jordan DeRemer singled in the fourth. The Panthers are scheduled to play East St. Louis Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Of the their seven remaining games, four are in conference, including games at SWC-leading Edwardsville and at home against Belleville West.
East plays host to Edwardsville May 11. The Lancers next play Thursday at Granite City.