United Township pitcher Brandi LaFountaine, right, goes to catch a pop-up by Moline's Madison Chase in a Western Big Six doubleheader Saturday at United Township High School. The Panthers swept the Maroons.

For years, United Township has shown the capability to beat Moline.

It's been an achievable feat in non-conference games and regional play but for some reason, on those Saturday conference doubleheaders, the softball team hits a hurdle.

Finally, this Saturday, the Panthers made the jump.

United Township defeated Moline 4-3 and 5-3 at United Township High School to earn its first conference sweep over its rivals since 2003, and stay atop the Western Big Six standings with Rock Island.

"This is the game that's going to carry us into the next few weekends," senior shortstop Kaitlyn Markin said. "Moline is always big rivals for us, it definitely gave us a lot of confidence. We didn't come out as strong as we could have but we fought to the end both games which I'm really pleased with."

Markin was 3-for-5 on the day, which included a two-run home run in the first inning of Game 2 but was also a large part of the Game 1 win.

Moline held a 3-0 lead after three innings in large part due to a two-run home run from Megan Adams, but the Panthers (6-4, 4-0) fought back. Brandi LaFountaine hit an RBI single in the fourth inning, then Markin drove in a run in the fifth, with another run scoring on an error to tie the game.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, UT loaded the bases thanks to two Moline errors, bringing Markin up again with no outs.

She was hit by a pitch to grab the walk-off win.

"I don't usually like getting hit by pitches but I'll take it," Markin said.

Markin's home run in the second game gave the Panthers a quick 2-0 lead but Moline (11-3, 2-2) rallied back with a run in the second inning then two in the third off a two-run single from Alexa Bishop to take a 3-2 lead.

But where in years past that might have been the Panthers' undoing, this time, they showed their resolve, tying the game in the fourth inning then taking a 5-3 lead in the sixth.

After the Panthers walked Markin to load the bases, senior catcher Brittni LaFountaine drove in two runs with a single, putting the Panthers on their way to the sweep.

"Base hit, just have to score a run," LaFountaine said. "With Brandi on the mound we had a pretty good chance of winning. I did my job, got the runs I could."

Moline got runners on first and second with one out in the seventh inning, but Adams hit into a 5-3 game-ending double play to cut the rally short. All told, the Maroons left 13 runners on base for the day.

"We hit the ball so well down in Tennessee and we come back here and we're just not coming through," Moline coach Mark Gerlach said. "We've got people all over the bases ... down there I counted on everybody to get a base hit and they did it and it just wasn't to be today."

Sophomore Brandi LaFountaine (4-3) was impressive in the circle, grabbing both wins and keeping her composure against a very experienced Moline lineup.

"Outstanding," head coach John Alonzo said. "I think she battled in that first game. She knows she's getting better, the team knows she's getting better and we're playing a little bit better behind her. She just seems to pitch well against Moline."

The Panthers still have a long ways to go if they want to win their first conference title since 2013. UT faces Galesburg next week, then has a date with co-leading Rock Island before traveling to Quincy to close out the conference slate.

However, there's no denying the impact sweeps over co-defending champions Alleman and Moline to open up the conference season has on the team.

"Knowing that we've defeated the two conference co-champs from last year, that should have give us confidence," Alonzo said. "We've still got three tough weekends, we've still have to keep playing, keep getting better but I think putting that behind us now, we should be motivated to want more."

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