It’s not that the Belleville East Lancers didn’t have their chances in a 6-2 loss to Lincoln-Way East at the Class 4A softball super-sectional Monday on the campus of Illinois State University.
Even against Lincoln-Way East pitcher Alex Storako — a DePaul University-bound senior — the Lancers collected seven hits and drew four walks. But they stranded 10 baserunners and lost another at the plate after allowing four unearned runs on three uncharacteristic errors.
For East, that spelled the end of a 30-win season which included its first sectional championship in 10 seasons. For Lincoln-Way East (29-3), it means a trip to the state tournament in East Peoria, where it will face Chicago Marist in the semifinal Friday.
“We hit so many line drives, and it just didn’t seem like we could get a break,” said East coach Natalie Peters. “I think everybody in the batting order squared the ball up at least one time. It’s just the timely hits. We had people on every inning, and we had the people up we want in those situations.”
In fact, opportunity came tailor-made for the Lancers in slugging catcher Alex Boze. The metro-east’s leader in home runs and RBIs stepped up to the plate three times with runners in scoring position.
She singled up the middle with a runner on second and two outs in the third, only to see Mackynzee Dalle tagged out on a close play at the plate following a perfect throw from Lincoln-Way East center fielder Ami Ill.
Dalle made it home on Boze’s second RBI attempt, a fifth-inning double that might have scored two had sophomore Alyssa Krausz not paused at second to be sure Ill didn’t run down the line drive in the gap.
Boze’s spot in the lineup came due again in the sixth, after Krausz had lined a single off the top of the wall and scored on a single by senior Jessica Belzer to narrow the East deficit to 3-2. This time, she smoked a one hopper to Griffins first baseman Lauren Hunter, who got the unassisted force to end the threat, for all practical purposes, and the Lancers’ season.
The Griffins went on to add three more runs — two on an RBI single by Storako — in the bottom of the inning to cinch the win.
We did everything we could.
Alex Boze, Belleville East catcher
“Softball is that way — it’s a game of inches,” Peters said. “Boze almost hit one out in the third, Krausz goes off the top of the fence. Those go 2 more feet, it’s a different ballgame.”
Boze, who has committed to Missouri State University, wrapped up a stellar junior year by going 3-for-4 with an RBI. She’s hit .480 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs.
“We did everything we could,” she said after the loss.
We had people on every inning, and we had the people up we want in those situations.
Natalie Peters, Belleville East head coach
Storako finished the game with 11 strikeouts, but East junior Kristina Bettis was her match, allowing just six Lincoln-Way East hits through five innings. Four unearned runs made the difference.
All three of the Griffins’ fourth-inning runs were unearned with two outs.
“We definitely made some mistakes in the fourth inning to give them those three runs with two out, but we didn’t quit,” Peters said. “I tell every senior, ‘You leave a legacy when you leave Belleville East,’ and I think the class of 2017 will be remembered as one of the best.”