COLLINSVILLE — It wasn’t the way Brittany Roady wanted to celebrate her 18th birthday on Saturday in Collinsville.
The Alton senior pitcher was hoping to help her team win its first regional championship in 10 years. But the O’Fallon Panthers had other ideas.
The Panthers beat the Redbirds 3-2 in the Class 4A Collinsville Regional title game at the Collinsville Sports Complex. O’Fallon will return to Collinsville at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to play the Edwardsville Tigers in a Class 4A Normal Sectional semifinal game. The Tigers beat Belleville East 7-3 in the Class 4A Edwardsville Regional championship game on Saturday.
“I was hoping to come out and win a regional championship on my birthday, but we still played a good game,” Roady said. “I’m happy with them today.”
O’Fallon improved to 20-7 and captured its first regional championship since 2012. It’s the first regional title for O’Fallon seniors Addison Barnouski, Allison Underwood and Cassie Brown.
“It means the world to me because I’ve been waiting four years for this,” Underwood said.
Alton senior Katelyn Presley also played her last high school softball game on Saturday.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, she flied out to O’Fallon junior center fielder Courtney Keller for the last out of the game.
“That was awesome,” Underwood said. “For an underclassman, it really boosted her confidence. That was an awesome catch and it saved our game. It could have been a different ball game.”
Barnouski’s three-run homer with one out in the top of the first was the difference.
After Underwood and Keller singled, Barnouski smacked a pitch from Roady and hit her team-leading fifth home run over the left center field fence to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
“The one pitch that she put over the fence was inside and up and she knew what to do with that,” Roady said. “She definitely got the better of that.”
Alton came back with two runs in the bottom of the first. Savannah Fisher drove home freshman Tami Wong with a one-out double. One out later, Fisher scored on a single by Miranda Hudson.
The Redbirds stranded three runners in scoring position over the next six innings.
“We had so many opportunities, but that’s OK,” Roady said. “I would like to get some runs across, but the two we got across were key moments. We had some other good hits that we couldn’t get runners across.”
Alton finished its season at 25-8, its fourth straight winning season.
“Twenty five wins is great, but I’m proud of the fact that we lost less than 10,” Alton coach Dan Carter said. “If you go out there and play the kind of schedule we play and don’t lose games, it’s more important than winning games. We don’t beat ourselves and we didn’t beat ourselves today. They did a nice job out there and O’Fallon earned a regional championship and we didn’t.”
Roady will play softball at Lincoln Land College next year. She will continue a softball career that started when she was 5.
“I like it because of how quickly it can change,” Roady said. “Nothing is settled. To go up there and be a pitcher, you can change the game in a matter of seconds and I just like how quick and upbeat everything is.”
Roady has been valuable to the Redbirds since she joined the program when she was a freshman. She went 49-28 during her high school career.
“I’m proud of what I’ve done these four years,” Roady said.
Roady finished with a career-best 22 victories this season, surpassing last year’s total of 16. She never had a losing season in the circle.
“She’s gotten some pitching time for us little by little all four years,” Carter said. “In her sophomore year, she got thrown into the mix when our starting pitcher got hurt. Little by little, she just kept working a little bit more. The hard work for her paid off and it’s all coming together this year for her.”
Roady gave up three runs on four hits, struck out two and walked one in seven innings of work on Saturday.
“She did a great job out there today,” Carter said. “You can’t complain about her effort not only today, but all season and all career. She had a great career for us. We will miss her.”