O’Fallon coaches kept Katie Moore on the junior varsity softball team much of the season to give her the innings she’d need to stay sharp in case of a varsity emergency.
That emergency arrived when senior pitcher/slugger Addison Barnouski went down for three weeks with a back strain. Moore has been a staple in the Panthers’ lineup ever since and was a key contributor in a post-season win Wednesday.
The sophomore had two hits and four runs batted in to lead the Panthers to a 9-5 win over top-seeded Edwardsville in the Normal Class 4A Sectional semifinals.
“As soon as I get up to the bat, I just try to make the most of it,” said the unassuming Moore, who won four games in the pitcher’s circle in Barnouski’s absence. “I’m just happy to be playing and stuff and to be getting the opportunity to do this.”
O’Fallon (21-7) will face Normal West (25-9) in the sectional final game at Normal High School Saturday. The winner will play in the super-sectional game on the campus of Illinois State University next Tuesday.
O’Fallon head coach Kelly Paproth said Moore’s eventual varsity arrival has been anticipated, but her performance has not been a surprise.
She’s hit .444 in three playoff games so far. Hitting from the lead-off spot Wednesday against Edwardsville, she had two of O’Fallon’s 10 hits, including a a two-out, two-run single that capped a seven-run Panther rally in the third inning.
“In our program right now, we don’t have a lot of depth pitching-wise, so she had to help us out at the junior varsity to keep her sharp in case something happened like what did happen,” Paproth said. “We had her as a tool we knew would always be used. So this is not a surprise, by any means, to us. We’re very happy with her performance, but it was one we knew she was fully capable of.”
With the win, the Panthers knocked off perennial sectional favorite Edwardsville, which finished 28-6 and hadn’t lost since a May 18 beating in O’Fallon.
Edwardsville took the lead with two runs off Barnouski in the second. Emma Lewis and starting-pitcher Jordan Garella got the RBIs.
But O’Fallon sent 11 batters to the plate in the top of the third to take command. Sophomore catcher Ginger Huskey lined a two-run, bases loaded single to tie the game.
Caroline Keller laid down a sacrifice bunt to drive in Barnouski for the lead, then ended up safe on first when the throw from Garella went home instead of to first. Junior Nikole Patterson follwed with a two-run double to make it 5-2.
Moore, on her second at-bat of the inning, cleared the bases with a single off Edwardsville reliever Jordyn Henricks to cap the rally.
I waited too long and should have made the (pitching) change a lot sooner. This was their third time seeing (Garella) and she's not a dominating pitcher.
Lori Blade, Edwardsville head coach
“I waited too long and should have made the (pitching) change a lot sooner,” said Edwarsdville coach Lori Blade. “This was their third time seeing (Garella) and she’s not a dominating pitcher. She does her job. But, today, I just should have pulled the trigger.”
O’Fallon stretched the lead with two more in the fifth, both a one-out single by Moore. The Panthers weren’t content, however, against a team that had scored in double figures 16 times this season.
“Our goal always is to keep pouring it on them and keep chipping away. You can’t ever give up on that team,” Paproth said.
The game ended, in fact, on a two-out, two-run single by sophomore Anna Burke, who was thrown out at second base after the relay home was cut off by Barnouski.
“It was the third inning when we gave up the (seven runs), but we felt like we were still in the game there,” Blade said. “But you don’t expect to score that many runs off of (Barnouski) though, as good as she is. You can’t put that on your offense every time.”
Barnouski completed the full seven innings, allowing five earned runs on 10 Tiger hits. She struck out two and walked two. She also singled and scored a run for O’Fallon.
Huskey had two hits in the game, including the two-run double, and scored.
Senior Jordan Corby’s high school career ended with a 2-4 performance and a run scored. Senior Rachel Anderson had one bunt single, but stretched into a run on a three-base throwing error. Allison Loehr was 2-3 with a run scored, Henricks had an infield single and Taryn Brown singled and scored in the seventh.