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SMC Softball: Belles sweep Bethel with two 8-5 victories

Deirdre Krasula | Tuesday, April 11, 2006

It seemed like Saint Mary’s had lost its momentum in the top of the fourth inning of the second game of Monday’s doubleheader with Bethel at Ivy Field.

Bethel freshman Staci Hitch homered for the Pilots, tying the game at two with her two-run blast. It got worse for Saint Mary’s when Bethel jumped ahead in the top of the fifth with two RBI singles for a 4-2 lead.

But the Belles answered Bethel’s call and came back to complete a sweep of the doubleheader, winning both contests 8-5.

In the second game, Saint Mary’s fought back in the bottom of the fifth when Belles’ first baseman Katie Rashid singled in two runs, tying the score at four. The Belles’ Sarah Meisle had reached on an error by Pilot shortstop Britny Beneker, and Saint Mary’s Ashley Fusaro and Laura Heline followed with singles to load the bases.

Freshman right-hander Kristin Amram then helped her own cause, reaching base on another Bethel error as Saint Mary’s took a 5-4 lead.

Bethel tied the game in the sixth, but Saint Mary’s answered once again.

Fusaro gave the Belles the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth with a bases-clearing double in the gap that gave Saint Mary’s the decisive 8-5 advantage. Saint Mary’s Martha Smid started the inning off with a single, and the Belles’ Audrey Gajor reached on another Bethel error. Meisle then walked to load the bases for Fusaro.

Fusaro said the batters who went before her aided her confidence at the plate.

“We had a lot of intensity from the bench,” she said. “It also helped to have players on base ahead of me.”

Saint Mary’s coach Erin Sullivan said Fusaro’s double was the turning point of the game and was emblematic of the type of big hits she’d like to see from her team.

“We had clutch hitting,” Sullivan said. “When you have that, you win.”

Amram finished off the game with a hitless top of the seventh.

Saint Mary’s also took the first game 8-5 as Bethel committed six errors in the contest.

Heline tied the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the first on a sacrifice fly. The Belles jumped ahead 4-2 when right fielder Calli Davison singled and Smid scored. In the bottom of the fourth, Saint Mary’s secured three runs to extend the lead to 8-2.

The Pilots caught a glimmer of hope in the bottom of the seventh when Hitch delivered an RBI base hit, but second baseman Katie Fornoff grounded out to first to end the game.

Sullivan said the sweep over Bethel was bittersweet. Saint Mary’s faced Belles’ former head coach Anna Welsh. Sullivan played under Welsh in 2004 when the Belles earned their first MIAA tournament victory. Sullivan also coached under Welsh in 2005.

“I wanted to beat her, but she is my mentor,” Sullivan said. “The reason we won those games is because she taught me so well. She taught me to be better than she is.”

Saint Mary’s faces Calvin College today at 3:30 p.m. at home.

The doubleheader will bring an end to an eight-game run the Belles have battled through in four days. The stretch started with a sweep of defending MIAA champion Alma. Saint Mary’s then split a doubleheader with Rockford Sunday.

Fusaro said Saint Mary’s goal was to go at least .500 in the eight games. With the two wins Monday, the Belles have already assured achieving that goal, as they are 5-1 in the first six contests.

Sullivan said the set against Calvin is important for the Belles not only because they are the last two games but also because they are conference games.

Fusaro says that Saint Mary’s will look to continue the success they have had in the past three days and finish off strong.

“Our goal was to stay intense and stay up,” Fusaro said. “To be as intense and as loud in the first game against Alma as in the last game against Calvin.”