GODFREY — Even with no seniors on his roster this season Alton head softball coach Dan Carter prefers the word inexperienced rather than young to describe his squad.
That inexperience showed on Tuesday, as the Redbirds committed five errors in their Southwestern Conference opener against Belleville East and lost 8-2.
It was the second consecutive loss for Alton, which dipped to 3-2 and 0-1 in the SWC. The Lancers won their second straight, improving to 3-5 and 1-0 on the league slate.
“We have errors that we're going to get better with,” Carter said. “I'm going to refuse to say we're young. We're going to get better. Do we need to learn some? Yes, we need to learn some. Do we need to get better? Yes, we need to get better, but we're not young we're just inexperienced and we're going to get better out here and you could even see it throughout the game, some of the mistakes we made in the first inning, we didn't make late in the game. We've got girls playing out of position for what they play on their teams during the summer and they're still learning that this is where they fit in for this team.”
On the other side, East head coach Natalie Peters has an inexperienced squad, too. The Lancers graduated nine seniors from last year's regional championship team.
“Our first six games definitely weren't our best games and we told the girls, 'This is a fresh start for you,'” Peters said of conference play beginning. “It's the start of a new season and of course we use our non-conference games to get better, but it's kind of a clean slate and we wanted to come out today and get off on the right foot.
“We graduated nine seniors from last year, our pitcher and the bulk of our offense, but these kids won at the JV level and they're competitors and we're just looking for them to improve each and every outing and hopefully we get to where we want to be by the end of the year.”
East didn't take long to get on the board. Alton hurler Brittany Roady plunked Brooke Laidley to start the game. Laidley then stole second and was able to come around to score on a one-out Lindsey Mossman single.
The Redbirds were able to catch Mossman in no-man's land between first and second on the relay throw to collect the second out of the stanza and Roady was able to pitch around AHS' first error to keep the deficit at 1-0.
Roady wasn't able to pitch around Alton's next to hiccups in the field in the second inning. East pitcher Angela Vanderpluyn reached on a miscue and gave way to courtesy runner Ally Blomberg. Blomberg then stole second and scored on an infield error on Annie Eversman's grounder. Erversman later scored on a flare to right by Rebecca Dahm to push the lead to 3-0 in favor of the Lancers.
“One of the biggest things we're trying to do right now is put every single ball in play and make the defense make some plays,” Peters said. “They did make a couple mistakes early and I thought our hitters did a great job of taking advantage of that as well as our base runners and that gave us a good start.”
Alex Boze's homer to lead off the fourth elevated East's lead to 4-0, but the Birds were finally able to answer in the bottom of the fourth.
Bronte Fencel coaxed the lone walk of the game with two outs and when Tomi Dublo picked up an infield hit, a rushed throw trickled away allowing Fencel to score and Dublo to advance to second. Savannah Fisher followed, tattooing a double into left field to chase home Dublo and cut East's lead to 4-2.
“We really didn't jump enough and then you turn around and give those runs right back and we had a little bit of a deflate,” Carter said. “We've got to learn from that and we've got to stay on top.”
The deflate came in the top of the fifth when the Lancers doubled their lead.
Roady got a quick out, but then Laidley doubled and Tawnee Kramer singled to put two runners on. Mossman quickly cleared the bases with a two-run double. Jessica Belzer then singled and two more AHS errors allowed them both to score and push it to 8-2.
Alton got out of the inning on a heady play. Eversman flew out to center field and when Roady caught the return throw she tossed it to third baseman Katelyn Presley, catching Boze in a double play after she didn't tag up.
“We kept our head in the game and doubled the girl off of third when they didn't have their head in the game,” Carter said. “That's a compliment to our girls that we were mentally still in the game down 8-2.”
Roady finished the game retiring the Lancers in order in the sixth and the seventh, picking up two of her four strikeouts in the game along the way. She threw 90 pitches and scattered eight hits, while walking none, hitting a batter and allowing eight runs, but only four earned.
Offensively, the Birds collected seven hits with Presley getting three of them from the leadoff spot. Dublo and Fisher each had two hits to account for the rest of Alton's offense.
“She's going to set the table for us,” Carter said of Presley. “We're going to be as good as our juniors are going to be. If Brittany Roady and Katelyn Presley are having good games, we can have good games. Even though we didn't win this game if you saw us last night, you would think it's two different teams. We've still got a learning curve, but I'm really happy with what we did tonight compared to what we did last night.”
BELLEVILLE EAST 8, ALTON 2
EAST 1 2 0 1 4 0 0 — 8 8 1
ALTON 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 — 2 7 5
ALTON (3-2, 0-1) — Katelyn Presley 3-4 SB, Miranda Hudson 0-3 HBP, Bronte Fencel 0-2 BB, Tomi Dublo 2-3, Savannah Fisher 2-3 2B RBI.
LP — Brittany Roady 7.0IP 8H 8R 4ER 0BB 4K 1HBP
BELLEVILLE EAST (3-5, 1-0) — Brocke Laidley 1-3 2B HBP SB, Tawnee Kramer 1-4 SB, Lindsey Mossman 2-4 2B 3 RBIs, Jessica Belzer 1-3, Alex Boze 1-4 HR RBI, Quiozha Alexander 1-3, Rebecca Dahm 1-3.
WP — Alexander Vanderpluyn 7.0IP 7H 2R 2ER 1BB 8K 1HBP