For five innings, it looked like Belleville East was going to break its three-year drought against the Edwardsville Tigers.
But Taryn Brown tied the game with an RBI single in Edwardsville’s half of the sixth and senior Jordan Corby blew it open with a grand slam to give the Tigers a 7-3 win.
“Everything we got going early was with two outs and we couldn’t keep it going,” said Edwardsville coach Lori Blade. “Then we had a couple of good at bats where we got some walks and Taryn’s little bloop hit was huge just to tie it up. Everybody could relax a little better at that point. I’m proud of the way the girls battled back.”
With the victory, Edwardsville (28-5) captured its 11th straight regional championship. It will face O’Fallon in the Normal Sectional semifinal Tuesday. The game will be played in Collinsville at 4:30 p.m.
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East — which last defeated Edwarsdville in 2013 and has since lost nine games in a row to the Tigers — took a 3-0 lead in the second inning. But Edwardsville junior pitcher Jordan Garella settled in to pave the way for a comeback.
She didn’t strike out any, nor did she walk a batter. But Garella used her defense to retire 14 Lancers in a row. She was perfect in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“All season long we’ve given up runs, so it’s not like we’re a shutout team,” said Garella. “I had confidence we could come back. She hit a grand slam so I was right.”
East’s season ends at 24-12. The Lancers were inconsistent through the early part of the season, but rebounded with seven wins in a row and finished the season by winning five of their last six.
“In my coaching career I’ve had some great senior classes,” said East head coach Natalie Peters. “They are all great for different reasons, but this group has the top work ethic I’ve ever seen. It’s tough ending at this point.”
East’s junior third baseman Jessica Belzer led off the game with a hit, went to second on a sacrifice bunt, and slid in safely at third on a ground ball fielder’s choice by Brooke Laidley. Senior shortstop Lindsey Mossman singled home both runners to give the Lancers a 2-0 lead.
Belzer made it 3-0 in the second by singling home Courtney Butler with two out.
“We started out five-for-10, then started chasing pitches we didn’t want to swing at off of (Garella),” Peters said. “I actually told them before the game if you want to beat them you better scored eight runs or more.”
Lancers’ freshman pitcher Kristina Bettis also got some help from her defense. Edwardsville put two runners on base with none out in the first on a walk and hit batter, but Mossman snagged hard line drive by Rachel Anderson and doubled the runner off second.
Through the first five inning Bettis allowed one scratch run when Sarah Hangslaben led off the Edwardsville fourth with a hit and scored on a two-out single by Emma Lewis.
But Hangslaben got the ball rolling for the Tigers in the top of the sixth with a lead off home run to center field. Edwardsville loaded the bases with one out on a hit by Anna Burke, a hit batter and a walk.
Tori Lonsdale entered the game in relief of Bettis.
Brown’s bloop single to left tied the game, then Corby hit her grand slam into the net that shields fans on the the junior varsity field beyond the left field fence. Her one swing broke the tie and padded the lead.
“In that at bat I was just looking for a pitch I could hit hard and put in the outfield to score a run to get us out ahead,” said Corby. “It just happened to be the right pitch and I got ahold of it.”
Corby finished the game 2-2 with four RBIs; Hangslaben was 2-4 with four runs scored; Lewis had two hits, an RBI and run scored.
For East, Belzer had two hits, a run scored and RBI; Laidley had a single and run scored; Mossman had one hit and an RBI; Butler had a single and run scored; and Angela Vanderpluym singled.