O’Fallon senior pitcher Addie Barnouski had a lot to be happy about Saturday in Collinsville.
The three-run home run she hit in the first inning was all the Panthers needed to defeat Alton, 3-2, because her defense got her out of some tight situations with clutch plays.
By the time the four-year starter got her hands on the class 4A regional softball championship plaque, she had tears in her eyes.
“Happy tears,” Barnouski said. “This is the first time in my four years that we won a regional tournament, or even made it to the second round of the regional tournament. So they are happy tears.”
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O’Fallon (20-7) advanced to face Edwardsville (28-5) in the first semifinal game of the Normal Sectional. The game will be played at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in Collinsville. Edwardsville eliminated Belleville East to win its own regional tournament.
The regional title represents a substantial turnaround from last season, when the Panthers finished 11-19 with a lineup full of freshmen and sophomores.
Barnouski, outfielder Cassie Brown and shortstop Allison Underwood are the only seniors on this season’s roster.
They kept believing in the process and in each other and that's why we're here. It's very rewarding for our seniors who have put in the time getting this group ready.
Kelly Paproth, O’Fallon head softball coach
“I’m happy for all the girls in the program, especially the seniors,” said O’Fallon coach Kelly Paproth. “We talked a lot last season about working through adversity. They kept believing in the process and in each other and that’s why we’re here. It’s very rewarding for our seniors who have put in the time getting this group ready.”
Alton’s season ended with a record of 25-8. The Redbirds graduated three seniors including pitcher Brittany Roady, who won 22 games in the circle.
“Two of our seniors have been starting since they were freshmen and together have plated 99 wins in their careers,” said Alton head coach Dan Carter. “We’ve only had one other group of seniors who graduated with more than 100 wins, so they had great careers and it was a great season for them.”
O’Fallon jumped on the lead early when Courtney Keller and Underwood each singled ahead of Barnouski, who then clubbed her seventh home run of the year.
Alton responded in the bottom half of the first with two runs on RBI singles from Savannah Fisher and Miranda Hudson.
This is the first time in my four years that we won a regional tournament, or even made it to the second round of the regional tournament. So they are happy tears.
Addison Barnouski, O’Fallon senior pitcher
Barnouski went on to strike out six of the next seven batters she faced. She finished the game with 10 strikeouts against just one walk.
It was defense that saved the game for her, though.
Alton put the tying run on first when Rachel McCoy reached on a two-out single. The next batter, Bronte Fencel, then roped a hit into left-center field.
Keller, the O’Fallon center fielder, back-handed the ball deep in the gap then threw a strike to third base to cut down McCoy.
“Casey and I always sprint to the gap to see he can get their first to cut it off,” Keller said. “Once I got the backhand, I secured it the best I could and, just like we do in practice, I threw it to third.”
It was another reason for Barnouski to be happy.
“I saw the girl was going to go third and that Courtney cut it off, so I went to back up third in case of an overthrow,” she said. “Then I saw the perfect throw hit Abby’s glove I got so excited ... I didn’t even wait for them to say she was out because I knew she was out.”
Keller had the only hit for O’Fallon after the first inning, a one out double in the third. Barnouski allowed eight hits to go with her 10 strikeouts.
Roady walked two and struck out two, but pitched to just one more than the minimum after the third. Tami Wong and Alexis Fisher each had two hits for Alton and scored the Redbirds’ only runs.