Belleville East junior Alex Boze hit for the cycle to lead the Lancers to a 16-4 Southwestern Conference win over Granite City on Friday.
The Missouri State University-bound catcher finished the day 4 for 4 — a triple in the first inning, a single in the second, a double in the third, and a home run in the fourth — with five runs batted in.
“My mindset was just to help my team out the best I could and to help us end the season on a good note,” Boze said. “I was just looking for good pitches and was able to hit them hard.”
Senior outfielder Amanda Dermody also had a big day against Granite City with four hits, including a pair of doubles, and three runs scored. Jackie Belzer, assuming the lead-off spot, went 3 for 3 and scored four times.
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Junior pitcher Kristina Bettis picked up the five-inning, short-game win, allowing four unearned runs in the third inning, while striking out three and walking one.
Boze said she and her teammates were propelled against Granite City and into the season’s home stretch by their performance against Edwardsville on Thursday. The Lancers lost to the Southwestern Conference leaders, but their ability to battle back from deficits three times represented a rare but true moral victory.
“I was super proud of my teammates because we fought every inning in that game,” she said. “Coming back to a conference game against Granite City, I felt like our confidence was really high.”
Boze continues to mount impressive offensive numbers, especially among large-school programs. She’s batting .490 through 96 at-bats, and her 11 home runs and 41 RBIs each rank second in the metro-east.
Coaches recognized her abilities before she even arrived at East. A third-year starter, Boze made an immediate name for herself by batting .395 with seven home runs and 45 RBIs as a freshman.
“Offensively, she has a maturity about her game this year,” said East head coach Natalie Peters. “She’s swinging at pitches she wants to hit and getting herself into good counts ... She has power to all fields, which I believe is exceptional at the high school level.”
Peters says Boze also has put in extra time with catching coach Lindsey Toenjes to improve her defense.
“The thing that makes Alex special is she is 100 percent coachable,” Peters said. “I think she will continue to improve every year of her playing career.”
By her own standards, Boze’s power numbers slipped during her sophomore year. That, too, has been motivation for the extra work Boze has put in.
“Nobody in the area really knew who I was as a freshman, and maybe they didn’t expect much from me,” she said. “My sophomore year I didn’t feel like I was where I needed to be; it’s hard to explain, but I didn’t feel like myself. This year I just wanted to improve.
“Plus Coach Peters and (assistant) Coach (Ashlee) Heady have put a whole lot into this team. It just makes you feel good to be part of it and want to do well to help.”
The Lancers (24-5) have games remaining against Mount Vernon and Collinsville before opening play at the Class 4A regional at Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin. East will face Springfield High School in a semifinal game May 23.
Granite City (8-17) opens play in the Collinsville 4A Regional quarterfinal against the host team May 22.