East offense shut down by Edwardsville defense
Call it a curse, a string of rotten luck or unfortunate coincidence, but it's been five years since Belleville East last defeated Edwardsville in high school softball.
The puzzling streak remained intact as the Tigers bounced the Lancers in the semifinals of an IHSA class 4A sectional, 3-0, on Tuesday.
"I don't know. I can't really say what it is that we haven't beaten them since 2013," said East coach Natalie Peters. "I don't think it's for lack of effort or that our kids are intimidated. For whatever reason we just don't get a break and we don't play the game we are capable of playing against them at times.
"We're not going to stop trying, I'll tell you that."
Edwardsville senior pitcher Jordyn Henricks didn't strike out anyone, but blanked the Lancers on one hit and a walk. She also pitched around a one out error in the second.
Two of the Tigers runs were unearned, but a fourth-inning home run by sophomore Maria Smith was all they needed anyway.
Edwardsville, 22-3 and winners of 15 straight, will face Rock Island for the sectional championship in Pekin on Saturday. The Lancers, sectional champions last year, see their season end at 28-9.
It's the fourth time in six seasons Edwardsville has knocked off East in the sectionals.
"I know you guys are getting all caught up in the numbers, but it's a battle with them because of how traditionally good they are," said Edwardsville coach Lori Blade, who this season surpassed 700 career victories. "Look at their record year in and year out. It's just an outstanding job by our kids to come in and battle with them all the time."
The Tigers took the early lead when Anna Burke reached on a fielder's choice and scored when a sharply hit ball by Smith was bobbled in the outfield. They got their second unearned run in the sixth when Emma Lewis scored from second on an errant throw.
East senior pitcher Kristina Bettis otherwise held Edwardsville to just four hits. She hit the leadoff batter in the first and walked two in the sixth, while striking out three along the way.
But the game shifted in the fourth with Smith's one-out bomb to left center. The ball cleared the scoreboard just beyond the 205-foot mark.
"She's strong and she's quick," Blade said of Smith. "If she gets a hold of it it's going, as strong as she is."
The Lancers meanwhile got nothing going offensively, save for Alyssa Krauzs' fourth-inning double.
"We had hits, they just went straight to people and our defense was mostly solid throughout the game," said Bettis, who failed to get at least one hit in just the third game this season. "Before the game we all were super confident. We thought we'd get more hits this game, but just didn't. We did our best."
The Lancer loss spells the end for seven seniors, including Missouri State University-bound catcher Alex Boze, the News-Democrat's 2017 player of the year. She graduates with the school record in hits, home runs and RBIs.
"It's rare that you get a kid that that's good and that coachable ...." an emotional Peters said of Boze. "It's hard to think about her not being back there, but she's going to do great things. There are seven seniors total and they are all great kids."
Also graduated from the team are Bettis, Mackynzee Dalle, Madi Echevaria, Rachel Holtmann, Kendall Patton and Jasmine Poore.