EDWARDSVILLE — Sarah Hanglsben put the finishing touches on Edwardsville’s 20th softball win of the season Thursday.
The junior outfielder did it in a powerful way.
Her three-run, walk-off home run in the seventh inning gave the Tigers a 6-3 win over Alton in a Southwestern Conference game at the District 7 Sports Complex.
The league-leading Tigers won their eighth in succession and improved to 10-0 in the SWC. Edwardsville, which lifted its overall record to 20-3, has won at least 20 games for the past 12 seasons. The Redbirds dropped to 15-5 and 7-3 in suffering their second setback to the Tigers this season.
“That’s what she does,” Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said. “Sarah has great pop on the ball. It just jumps off her bat.”
It did just that with two-on base and one out in the seventh. Hangsleben’s home run cleared the fence in right center field and gave her a 3-for-4 outing with four RBIs. She also singled home a run in the first inning.
“That’s my top home run of the season,” Hangsleben said of her game-winner. “I was just looking to make good contact because we had runners in scoring position.”
And away it flew. Hangsleben belted for 10th home run of the season, one shy of the school record. Rachel Coonrod clouted 11 in 2009 when she drove in 50 runs and batted .530. Hangsleben is nearly matching those hefty numbers. She has 35 RBIs to go with a .527 average.
“Working out in the off-season really has helped me,” Hangsleben said.
Alton coach Dan Carter faced a tough decision in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Hayli Green doubled for her third hit. Carter elected to walk Southeast Missouri State-bound Rachel Anderson ahead of Hangsleben.
It was sort of a pick-your-poison choice.
“We walked her (Anderson) to set up a possible force out situation,” Carter said.
Blade noted, “That’s a tough choice either way in pitching to one or the other.”
The Redbirds came close to grabbing the lead in the top of the seventh when Katelyn Presley stroked a two-out double and Tami Wong followed with a sinking line drive to left field. But Green, the daughter of new Marquette Catholic girls’ basketball coach Lee Green, made a diving catch to keep things knotted at 3-3.
“She made a game-saving catch,” Blade said of Green.
Carter pointed out, “Green made a tremendous play.”
Presley and Tomi Dublo both had a pair of hits for the Redbirds and losing pitcher Brittany Roady chipped in with a run-scoring single. Alton led 1-0 in the first, then tied it 3-3 in the fourth after the Tigers scored twice in the first and once in the third.
“You can play well and not win, and that’s what happened to us,” Carter said. “I thought Brittany pitched a pretty good game, but Edwardsville did what it needed to do to win the game.
“I’d like to think we are still in the conference race, but we are three games behind the leader and we are done playing them.”
While Hangsleben and Green teamed for 6 of the Tigers’ 10 hits, teammates Jennifer Werner and Anna Burke contributed to the cause. Werner hit a run-scoring single in the third and Burke drove in a first-inning run.
Winning pitcher Jordan Garella raised her record to 16-1 in helping the Tigers win for the 16th time in their last 17 games. She struck out seven and allowed six hits. Roady fanned one, walked two and gave up 10 hits in 6.1 innings.
While the Tigers are scheduled to play a doubleheader Friday at Teutopolis, the Redbirds welcome East Alton-Wood River, Trenton Wesclin and Waterloo in their two-day, round-robin tournament that starts Friday. They face the Oilers at 4:30 p.m. Friday in their tourney opener.
EDWARDSVILLE 6, ALTON 3
Alton 100 200 0 — 3 6 0
Edwardsville 201 000 3 — 6 10 1
Alton (15-5, 7-3) — Katelyn Presley 2-4 2B, Tomi Dublo 2-3 RBI, Miranda Hudson 1-1-3, Brittany Road 1-3 RBI. LP – Roady IP-6.1 H-10 R-6 ER-6 BB-2 K-1
Edwardsville (20-3, 10-0) — Jordan Corby 1-4 2B, Hayli Green 3-4 2B-2, Sarah Hangsleben 3-4 HR RBI-4, Anna Burke 1-3 RBI, Jennifer Werner 1-2 RBI, Taryn Brown 1-3. WP – Jordan Garella IP-7 H-6 R-3 ER-2 BB-0 K-6