The Edwardsville softball team departed for Normal and a double header with Community High School on the morning of April 11 with a zero in the loss column and a national ranking.
The Tigers came home that evening with two painful, one-run, blown-in-the-seventh-inning losses and a seriously vengeful attitude among their hitters. They've won five in a row since, out-scoring their opponents a combined 57-2.
Belleville West became the fifth victim Thursday, falling to Edwardsville 12-1 in a short game.
"It put it back in perspective that we need to compete and compete for a full 21 outs," Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said of the losses in Normal. "But as long as we learn from it, I have no problem taking the losses."
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The Maroons hoped to throw Edwardsville off balance with senior pitcher Bethany Dain, who doesn't throw quite as hard as West's other innings-eater, McKenzie Sisk. It was Dain who was in the circle last season when the Maroons' upset the state-bound Tigers.
"I thought we could throw of their timing with a little big slower, junk pitcher," said West coach Casey Garrett.
But Edwardsville was ready this time. The Tigers scored three runs in the first, another in the third on a Rachel Anderson lead-off home run, then broke the game open with eight runs in the fourth inning.
"We were talking about it in the dugout about them trying to throw off speed to us," said Anderson, the junior outfielder who's clubbed a team-high six home runs this season. "It was a good idea, but Hayli (Green) had a good hit and everybody just hit the ball all the way around.
"That tends to happen a lot with us."
Green led the way for the Edwardsville offense. She had an RBI single in the first inning, then scored a pair of runs during the big fourth-inning rally that included her three-run home run to center field. Anderson and Torrie Kruse each had two-run doubles in the fourth and Katelyn Bobrowski drove home the rally's other run with an RBI single.
"We are putting the ball in play hard and we're fortunate enough that sometimes it's finding holes and get through," said Blade. "That's all we want to do — have good at-bats with good swings and hopefully it'll find the gaps at some point. So far we've done that."
The Maroons entered the game having won six of their last seven games and are 12-5 on the season. They looked prepared to challenge Edwardsville ace Kallen Loveless early in the game, especially when junior Olivia Young smashed a home run deep into right field to lead off the second inning.
Still down just three in the the third inning, center fielder and lead-off hitter Alliyah St. John hit a one-out triple. But Emily Fulton grounded out to Loveless on the next at-bat and St. John was thrown out trying to score.
The Maroons got just one more base runner the rest of the way. Morgan Hinkle had West's only other hit, a second inning single.
Loveless finished the five-inning win, allowing one earned run on three hits while striking out six and walking one.
"We didn't get much opportunity at the plate," Garrett said. "I think each girl got to bat two times around. If you don't get the plate appearances, you're not going to get to see the pitcher and have less of a chance hitting her.
"We'll get it back together."
St. John was helped off the field with an ankle sprain after sliding into the catcher on the close play a the plate. The Maroons also had lost regular second baseman, Megan Glaeser, Wednesday night with a fractured nose. They’ll have five days to heal up before heading to Collinsville for another Southwestern Conference game next Tuesday.
Edwardsville, 11-2, continues its busy schedule Friday by hosting a double header against Chatham-Glenwood.