BY KATHERINE MURRAY WEEKLY REPORTER
O’FALLON – It was a pitching showdown at the OTHS Milburn softball fields on Thursday afternoon. The O’Fallon Lady Panthers faced off against the Edwardsville Tigers and ultimately fell short of a win, losing with a score of 3-1.
This is head softball coach Lauren Popov-Muniz’s first season coaching the Lady Panthers. The season has been plagued by rain delays and cancellations. But she had nothing but glowing remarks for the team’s pitcher.
“Hayleigh Juenger kept us in the game,” Head Coach Popov-Muniz stated confidently of the team’s freshman pitcher. “She was absolutely a key player for us.”
The Lady Panthers struggled to bring runs home, suffering several endings in the middle with no runners on base, remaining scoreless for the first six innings.
The tide shifted in the top of the sixth. After a quick time out with her infield, Coach Popov-Muniz watched her team close out the inning with an impressive defensive move. Second base Katie Moore and first base Caroline Keller, both juniors, turned a double play to end the Tigers’ at bat.
The Lady Panthers took the momentum into the final inning, making a come back in the bottom of the seventh with an RBI from sophomore Ashley Schloer, sending in teammate Jordan DeRemer for the only score of the afternoon for the Lady Panthers. After stealing second base, Hayleigh Juenger took a gutsy chance and showed off some fancy footwork when she was caught in a run down between second and third base, managing to take third after much back-and-forth. Several Panthers had hits to follow, but a final out sealed their fate.
“Edwardsville is a good team. They’re always a competitive match up for us,” Popov-Muniz said of their opponents. But her own team is not without merit. “I’ve seen some improvements for us on things we’ve worked on in practice. We are really concentrating on working on our approach. And making adjustments earlier in the game, both on defense as well as offense.”