NORMAL — As soon as he heard the ping of the bat, Moline softball coach Mark Gerlach knew it was gone.
But his left fielder, junior Kayla DePoorter, had other ideas.
"I just sprinted back and I reached up and there it was," DePoorter said.
DePoorter's robbery of a potential three-run homer by O'Fallon's Kelly Short was just one of many defensive highlights as Moline knocked off O'Fallon 1-0 in the Class 4A Normal Sectional championship game on Friday afternoon.
"We were robbed on four great hits, but that's just Moline playing great defense," O'Fallon coach Lauren Muniz said. "They're a great ball team. Very athletic, well prepared and did their job defensively."
O'Fallon (25-10) was looking for its first sectional championship since 2002. The 25 wins are the most for the Panthers since 2012.
"It's been a few years since O'Fallon has had 20-plus win seasons," Muniz said. "Our athletes did a great job. They show up every single day and do what they're supposed to do and work hard. They leave everything on the field, you can't ask for much more."
Short, with two runners on in the top of the third, drilled a 2-2 pitch for an apparent round-tripper over the wall in left.
"I saw her have a bead on it the whole way and you could tell she thought she had a chance for it," Gerlach said. "We were lucky she got it."
Moline (26-12) was able to collect eight hits although O'Fallon's defense turned in a few web gems of its own.
"We made state championship quality plays," Muniz said. "We made great plays on the infield. We did our job too, but they were able to scrap one in and we didn't."
Olivia Sander drove in Greta Spect with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning.
"That was an unbelievably well-played game on both sides," Gerlach said. "I think O'Fallon did a great job and I thought we did a great job."
Leeann Vande Voorde and Lindsey Glass combined for the shutout as Moline used two pitchers to throw off the Panthers' timing.
"We had done our homework and we knew that was their play and we had prepped for it," Muniz said. "We hit the ball hard, but we didn't get any of them to fall."
Hayleigh Juenger went the distance for the Panthers in the circle.