ROXANA – There’s an opportunity for the East Alton-Wood River High School softball team to make some magic Saturday.
The Oilers can win their first regional title in school history.
EA-WR, which defeated Staunton, 4-3, Tuesday in a semifinal game of the Class 2A Roxana Regional, clashes with top-seeded Dupo at 11 a.m. Saturday for the right to play in the Williamsville Sectional. Dupo defeated EA-WR, 10-6, on April 2.
“It feels so sweet to get into the regional championship game,” EA-WR senior pitcher Tori Beachum said. “We feel good about it because none of us have ever played in one.”
Beachum, a senior lefty bound for Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, allowed eight hits and struck out eight against Staunton, which finished 13-10. The third-seeded Bulldogs shared the South Central Conference title with Gillespie. The second-seeded Oilers improved to 17-19. They have won six of their last seven games.
“We played in a regional title game when my daughter, Leah, played for us, but that has been a while,” Oilers’ coach Dana Emerick said. “I think it’s going to be fun to play for a regional championship.”
Dupo, sporting a 20-7 record, ousted Roxana, 5-1, in the first semifinal Tuesday. The fourth-seeded Shells closed at 17-17.
“They have a nice little team and they won a lot of games at the end of the season,” Dupo coach Greg Pennock said of the Shells.
And it appears the Oilers are playing their best ball at the right time of the season. They overcame a 1-0 deficit against Staunton and then scored three times in the sixth to build a 4-1 advantage.
However, the Bulldogs kept growling. They used Natalie Gusewelle’s two-run double in the seventh to make it a one-run game. Beachum then got the final out and the Oilers celebrated.
“I tip my cap to Staunton,” Emerick said. “We beat them 12-1 earlier this year and coach Jennifer Brooke has done a great job with them. They battled us to the end.”
Leadoff hitter Marcy McCalley went 3-for-4 and reached base four times to spur the Bulldogs. Losing pitcher Delissa Dennison singled and scored on Grace Nichols’ second-inning single. Gusewelle went 2-for-3 as the Bulldogs outhit the Oilers, yet that wasn’t enough.
“Our girls never gave up, and we were going against one of the best pitchers we have faced all season,” Brooke said. “It was a good defensive game by both teams, but they got some key hits in the sixth inning.”
Carly Campbell, Courtney Beneke and Peyton Young provided run-scoring singles in that decisive sixth. Haley Shewmake and Emme Flanigan also added singles. Beachum doubled and scored on Campbell’s squeeze bunt in the fourth.
“We had some solid hits and we had some lucky ones,” Emerick quipped.
Beachum said the Oilers made the most of their chances against Dennison. “Our timing was off early in the game. By the sixth inning, we started to see the pitches better and we put the ball in play more.”
Dupo managed nine hits, including five bunt singles, off Roxana’s Hannah Rexford. Rachel Donald tripled home a run in the third and then supplied a two-run single in a three-run sixth. Teammate Alyssa Strubberg logged three hits, two of them bunts. Skylure Barlow collected two hits and swiped two bases. Winning pitcher Jessica Stansch allowed five hits and struck out nine.
The Shells grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning When Cindy Scroggins singled home Rexford, who walked, stole second and advanced to third. Rexford was 2-for-3 and reached base three times.
“Rachel Donald had a couple of big hits and Stansch did a nice job for us,” Pennock said. “We took what they gave us and that’s why we got those bunts down for hits.
“We did all right. We played good enough to win.”
Shells’ coach Mike Arbuthnot said the Tigers were as good as advertised.
“They are fundamentally sound and their pitcher threw strikes,” he said. “They are a good club.”
He added, “I thought when we got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth, it might get us going. We loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth and then Abby Palen had a good at-bat, but she flied out to center field.”
He foresees more good things for the Shells down the road.
“We’re a young team and we made adjustments during the season,” he said. “I thought we made huge strides going from five wins last year to 17 this year. We got better and I’m looking forward to next season.
“I’m so proud of the kids. We had a successful season.”
CLASS 2A ROXANA REGIONAL
DUPO 5, ROXANA 1
Roxana 100 000 0 – 1 5 1
Dupo 102 002 X – 5 9 2
Roxana (17-17) – H. Rexford 2-3, C. Scroggins 1-3 RBI, Sherer 1-3, L. Scroggins 1-3. LP – H. Rexford IP-6 H-9 R-5 ER-5 BB-3 K-4
Dupo (20-7) – Strubberg 3-4, Brown 1-3, Donald 2-3 3B RBI-3, Barlow 1-3 RBI-2, Mallendo 1-3, Brizzi 1-3. WP –Stansch IP-7 H-5 R-1 ER-1 BB-2 K-9
EA-WR 4, STAUNTON 3
Staunton 010 000 2 – 3 8 2
EA-WR 000 103 X – 4 6 1
Staunton (13-10) – McCalla 3-4, Gusewelle 2-3 2B RBI-2, Dennison 1-3, Redeker 1-2, G. Nichols 1-3 RBI. LP – Dennison IP-6 H-6 R-4 ER-4 BB-3 K-4
EA-WR (17-19) – Shewmake 1-3, Beachum 1-3, Flanigan 1-2, Campbell 1-2 RBI-2, Beneke 1-3 RBI, P. Young 1-3 RBI. WP – Beachum IP-7 H-8 R-3 ER-3 BB-0 K-8