ALTON — Alton head softball coach Dan Carter credits his team's patience and composure in their 7-6 victory over the Quincy Blue Devils on Wednesday in the first round of the Class 4A Alton Regional.
The Redbirds squandered a 4-0 lead to the Blue Devils to fall behind 6-4 after Quincy's six-run fifth inning. After tying the game 6-6 in the bottom of the fifth, junior Katelyn Presley took advantage of a ball in the dirt behind home plate to score the winning run in the bottom of the seventh for the walkoff victory.
"All I could see was home plate," Presley said. "I was focused on getting in there, my only thought was, 'Just don't let her tag me.'"
Alton extends its season to face Edwardsville at 11 a.m. on Saturday, a conquest that Carter and his crew are already thinking about.
"Regional championship on Saturday with Edwardsville, that's a game where it doesn't matter who you have to face, it's just a game you want to be in." Carter said. "Right now (Kallen) Loveless has not been pitching and I'm not sure if she'll be back or not. We're not even going to worry about that, we're just focusing on who we are going to have on the field. They're a good ball club. We know they're going to hit the ball well and they're going to play strong defense."
The Redbirds didn't waste any time getting things started with a single from Savannah Fisher to climb aboard the bags in the first inning. Miranda Hudson advanced the runner on a sacrifice bunt and Bronte Fencel earned the RBI to bring Fisher across the plate to get the Birds on the scoreboard.
After leaving a couple runners on the bags in the bottom of the second inning, the Redbirds struck again in the third with Fisher's second single of the game. Hudson knocked a double into center field to score Fisher to put Alton ahead 2-0 going into the fourth inning.
Presley got things going in the fourth when she was hit by a pitch to climb aboard for the Birds. Fisher drew a walk to put two runners on the bags for Hudson who earned two RBIs with her second double of the game, stretching Alton's lead to 4-0 entering the fifth inning.
The Blue Devils found their bats in the fifth inning, scoring six runs off two Redbird errors in a frame where Quincy's entire batting order took a turn at the plate.
Quincy sophomore Amy Bordewick got it going, reaching on an Alton error and was joined by junior Ashley Havermale when she drew the walk from Alton pitcher Brittany Roady. Quincy swung for four back-to-back singles by Kailey Owsley, Abby Dalke, Roni Wingerter and Kaylee Young brought in a total of six runs to erase the Redbird lead and put Quincy up 6-4.
"Our girls played their hearts out," Quincy head coach Daryl Henze said. "We played a good game against a good team. This is probably one of the best games we've played all season. We fought and battled. Roady was able to hit that outside corner and it took us until the fifth to make the adjustment and get some runs scored."
Alton answered back with three singles from Alicia Goewey, Sydney Hartman and Shannon Jackson to load the bases in the home half of the fifth. Goewey was able to stroll across the plate when Presley drew a walk with one out to cut it to 6-5. Fisher then hit a sacrifice fly to score Hartman to tie the game 6-6.
Roady was able to shut the Blue Devils down from the circle in the top of the sixth and seventh inning with the game remaining at a 6-6 standoff.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Presley took one for the team when she was hit by a pitch for a second time in the game. Fisher earned her third hit for the Redbirds to climb aboard and put Presley in scoring position at second.
At first opportunity, Presley saw a chance to steal third with only one out in the books. Then on the second pitch to Hudson, the ball hit the dirt and Presley scrambled to beat the tag at home to give Alton a 7-6 regional win in walkoff fashion.
"We came into this game really hyped," Fisher said. "We just wanted to make it to the regional championship and we are really looking forward to playing against Edwardsville."
The Redbirds, the No. 2 seed in the regional, improved to 20-14 on the season with the triumph. Carter is proud of his team's performance in the first round.
"We have players like Presley who is a tremendous baserunner," Carter said. "She will gamble, but most of the time it pays off. Our girls played to our philosophy, put the pressure on the other team. Presley got on base, I knew I had Fisher behind her who had already been across the plate today three times. Fisher is also a great baserunner. I felt confident in the girls and they pulled it off."
The Redbirds will face the one-seeded Tigers on Saturday at 11 a.m. who defeated Granite City on Tuesday in the other semifinal game 12-2. EHS is 26-4 on the season and went a perfect 14-0 in the Southwestern Conference.
ALTON 7, QUINCY 6
Quincy 000 060 0 - 6
Alton 101 220 1 - 7
ALTON (20-14) — Katelyn Presley HBP 2 runs, Savannah Fisher-3-4 3 runs RBI, Miranda Hudson 1-3 2 RBIs, Bronte Fencel 2-3 RBI, Taylor Herrin 1-2 HBP, Rachel McCoy 2-3 RBI, Alicia Goewey 1-3 1 run, Sydney Hartman 1-2 1 run, Shannon Jackson 1-4.
WP - Brittany Roady IP-7, H-7, R-6, ER-0, BB-2, HBP-1, K-8
QUINCY (8-25) — Ashley Havermale 1-3 1 run, Kailey Owsley 0-2 1 run, Abby Dalke 1-4 2 RBIs, Roni Wingerter 1-2 2 RBIs, Kaylee Young 1-3 1 run, Lexi Bordewick 1-4, Hannah Fuglaar 1-4 2 RBIs, Aamy Bordewick 1 run, Kayla Mast 2-3
LP - Bailey Logsdon IP-7, H-9, R-7, ER-7, W-5, HBP-4, K-1