Olivia Young says she never tries to hit home runs, they just sometimes “happen.”
Home runs happened to the Belleville West junior 11 times during the regular high school softball season and twice more Wednesday as the Maroons’ overwhelmed Collinsville, 11-1, in the semifinals of the Class 4A Regional.
Young hit a three-run home run in the first inning and a two-run blast in the fifth to help West advance to the title game Saturday against tournament host and top-seeded Belleville East. She also drove home a run with a ground ball in the second inning.
“I wouldn’t have been able to have six RBIs if the other girls weren’t doing their jobs,” Young said. “Everybody was seeing the ball really well today. I’ve been trained to hit the ball hard, but I don’t try to hit home runs. They just happen.”
West, 22-13 and the tournament’s No. 3 seed, advances to championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday against regional host and top-seeded Belleville East. The Lancers are 24-10 after a 2-1 walk-off win over O’Fallon in the other semifinal game Tuesday.
Eight of the nine batters in the Maroons’ lineup accounted for the team’s 13 total hits, including catcher Kiri Evans, who went 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI, and Megan Glaeser who drove home a pair on one hit.
West was able to string hits together in a five-run first and three runs in each the second and fifth inning.
“We hit up and down the lineup, which was great to see,” said West coach Casey Garrett. “We practiced to play Collinsville the last couple of days. We went up and down their lineup and prepared for how we’re going to pitch them and how we’re going to play defense against them. It worked.”
Collinsville, the regional’s No. 2 seed, twice defeated West during the regular season, scoring nine runs in each game while junior pitcher Addison Wickiser picked up the wins.
But Wickiser struggled from the start in her third appearance against the Maroons, allowing a lead-off bunt hit by West’s Alliyah St. John before hitting Evans with a pitch. Young followed with a line drive over the fence in right-center field. McKenzie Sisk and Megan Glaeser each drove in runs to make the score 5-0 before the Kahoks got their first at-bat.
The Maroons scored three more in the second inning with the help of two Collinsville errors. Young, Evans and Glaeser were credited with runs batted in.
“Addison has been great for us, but she just couldn’t find it today, and we didn’t help her much either,” said Collinsville first-year coach Daniel Toberman. “We played two great games against them earlier, but I don’t think the scores were indicative of the differences between the two teams. West is much better and they showed us before. We just weren’t ready to play at the beginning.”
West added three more runs in the fifth inning, two of which came on Young’s second home run of the game. Morgan Hinkle drove home the other run with a single up the middle to score Alyssa James.
Belleville West sophomore Isabella Holtrop was nearly perfect in picking up the short-game win. She allowed just two hits — including a solo home run to Kassidy Smith with two out in the fourth — and walked just one. Audrey Allard had Collinsville’s only other hit.
Holtrop didn’t factor prominently in the Maroons’ plans early in the season and, in fact, spent some time with the junior varsity in the middle of the season. But she entered the regional leading the team with a 7-3 record and a 2.88 ERA in 90 innings pitched.
“She went kind of a roller coaster herself so we sent her to the JV level to get some confidence,” Garrett said. “Since then she’s done a great job since she’s been back. But I’ve still got four pitchers to choose from that I’m confident in going to.”
Collinsville, 16-16, defeated West twice during the regular season under Toberman. It was their first non-losing season since 2011.
“I told our seniors thanks for everything they contributed to the program,” Toberman said. “This is only my first year, so I only got to see them this season, but the program is better off for having had them, no question about it.”