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Belleville East parlays clutch hitting, dominant pitching into regional championship

📁 Softball, Spring 🕔29.May 2018
Belleville East parlays clutch hitting, dominant pitching into regional championship

5/28/2018, STLhighschoolsports.com, By David Wilhelm, Photos by Paul Baillargeon and Tim Vizer

BELLEVILLE • The Belleville East softball team had all the bases covered Saturday.

The Lancers got clutch hitting from juniors Alyssa Krausz and Jackie Belzer and dominant pitching from senior Kristina Bettis as they blanked Collinsville 3-0 in the championship game of the Class 4A Belleville West Regional.

East also executed a critical double play to stifle a Kahoks rally in the fourth and benefited from a sliding catch in left field by sophomore Kenzie Crowder in the fifth.

“Every championship you can win is awesome,” Lancers coach Natalie Peters said as her jubilant players celebrated. “It’s hard sometimes to maintain what these kids have done. (Championships) are all special, so it’s hard to put into words how they’re different. We’re super-proud of them.”

The Lancers (28-7) advance to the Pekin Sectional, where they will play Edwardsville (21-3) in a semifinal contest at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Edwardsville High.

Edwardsville nipped Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin 1-0 on Saturday in the title game of the Alton Regional. The Tigers swept the Lancers in the regular season, winning 8-1 and 2-1.

Bettis (21-5) fired a three-hitter, walked one and struck out seven. She retired the side in order in all but the fourth and seventh.

“I was pretty confident. I knew I had my defense to back me up,” said Bettis, who also singled, walked and scored two runs. “This is a big moment for all of us. It’s going to bring us all even closer and make us better for the next game.”

Bettis issued her only walk with two outs in the seventh, putting Collinsville runners on first and second. Kahoks junior Heather Martinez, representing the tying run, had an extended at-bat before fouling out to senior catcher Alex Boze to end the game.

“We kept fighting,” said Kahoks coach Brett Swip, whose team finished 23-14. “A good team like Belleville East can get momentum and kind of run away with it. But we were able to stop it at times, which gave us an opportunity on the offensive side. We got runners on, we just couldn’t get that big momentum shift. Give credit to them. They didn’t let us get that momentum shift.”

Bettis had much to do with that.

“Kristina was absolutely phenomenal today. I’m so proud of her,” Peters said. “She’s been a workhorse for us. For her to come out and dominate the way she did. She worked ahead of batters and came back in counts she needed to come back in. And our defense backed her up and made some huge plays.”

East took a 1-0 lead in the first on Bettis’ leadoff single against Collinsville freshman Kandra Butcher (9-6), a sacrifice by Belzer and a two-out double to left by Krausz.

Bettis walked to start the third and went to second on another sacrifice by Belzer. Again with two outs, Krausz doubled over third to score Bettis and make it 2-0.

“On my hits, I was thinking about getting (the ball) through the infield. I wasn’t trying to do anything special,” Krausz said. “I shortened up my swing and hit line drives. Coach Peters and I have been working on being quick to the ball. My timing was better today.”

Krausz, a shortstop, was part of the big double play to end the fourth.

East led 2-0 when Collinsville had runners at second and third with one out. Sophomore Esabella Marsala popped up a bunt that was caught by senior second baseman Kendall Patton, who fired to Krausz to double off Kahoks sophomore Maddy Lautz.

“She was three-fourths the way to third,” Krausz said of Lautz. “I just needed to catch it and run over and tag the base. Inning over.”

Belzer hit her fourth homer of the season in the fifth, a bases-empty shot to left-center that made it 3-0 and ended Butcher’s outing.

“That happens,” Swip said. “It was just one of those games.”

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