While Kelly has made the postseason an annual ritual, Belle won its first district title just two years ago and never had been past the sectional round until this year.
But that lack of playoff experience didn't slow down the Tigers, who scored a run in the bottom of the sixth inning Saturday to beat Kelly 1-0 in a Class 2 quarterfinal at the Ballwin Athletic Association.
Kelly's loss ended its string of three straight final four appearances, including a state runner-up finish last season.
"It sucks not going [to the final four] our senior year," said Kelly standout pitcher Danielle Dock. "But we had a good run. Not many people thought we'd make it this far."
"It's very exciting," Belle coach Butch Gehlert said.
Dock had been dominant in helping Kelly (20-10) reach the quarterfinals, striking out 44 and allowing just one run in two district tournament games and the sectional.
Dock again did her job Saturday, but this time she met her equal -- at least -- on the opposing mound.
Shannon Branson gave up just one hit in her shutout. She struck out seven and walked two, both free passes coming in the first inning when Kelly stranded the bases loaded with two outs. The other runner reached on a passed ball after a strikeout.
Dock scattered six hits -- including three doubles -- struck out eight and walked one. She repeatedly worked out of trouble as Belle had runners on in five of the six innings.
"She threw a good ballgame," Kelly coach Rhonda Ratledge said.
While Belle had most of the good scoring chances, the game stayed 0-0 through five innings. Kelly nearly jumped ahead in the top of the sixth.
With two outs, after Branson had retired 12 straight, senior shortstop Londyn Backfisch reached on the lone error of the day by either side.
Belle got the ball back in quickly as Backfisch raced to third.
Dock, heading for second, probably would have been out, so she retreated back to first.
Belle second baseman Kylie Reynolds chased Dock, who made it back to the bag safely just as Ratledge sent Backfisch to the plate.
Backfisch nearly scored, but Reynolds' perfect throw nailed Backfisch for the third out.
"We were trying to sneak her [Backfisch] in. I don't regret it."
Asked if she thought she beat the tag at the plate, Backfisch said she wasn't sure after being shaken up on the play.
"I don't really remember what happened," Backfisch said. "Her [catcher Shaya Kinsey[']s] glove knocked my helmet into my teeth."
Belle finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth.
After a walk to Hayle Marquart -- who had doubled twice previously -- Danielle Herrington laced an RBI double off the right-field fence.
Kelly went down in order in the seventh as its hopes of a fourth straight final four trip ended.
"We gave it everything we've got. We played Kelly softball," Backfisch said. "They had a pretty good little team and we just couldn't pull it out."
The Hawks, led by their five seniors, shared plenty of tears in the aftermath of the defeat. Ratledge was emotional as well.
WP -- Shannon Branson. LP -- Danielle Dock. 2B -- Hayle Marquart (B), Danielle Herrington (B). Multiple hits -- Belle: Marquart 2-2, Alex Ridenhour 2-3. Records -- Kelly 20-10, Belle 18-5.