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Fifth-place Belles to face three MIAA rivals this week

Rebecca Slinger | Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Saint Mary’s has a busy week ahead of it, facing three MIAA rivals with the conference tournament less than two weeks away.

The fifth-place Belles are currently one spot out of the four-team tournament, but freshman outfielder Ashley Peterson doesn’t think the crucial week will slow the Belles momentum.

“It’s going to be tough especially with school work,” she said. “But I think we can pull it off and make it work.”

Today, the Belles (18-6, 3-5 MIAA) will battle it out against eighth-ranked Albion (10-21, 3-9 MIAA) at 3:30 p.m. at Gainey Field.

Albion is a less accomplished squad, entering with a team ERA of 4.93 and batting average of .251. The Britons’ ace pitcher is sophomore Amber Hummel, who has posted a 3.40 ERA but owns a 2-7 record, thanks in large part to poor run support.

Briton sophomore Andrea English leads the team with a .322 batting average in her 87 at-bats this season. Albion has only won two of their nine games on the road this season, while the Belles are undefeated at Gainey (3-0).

In the past week the Belles have returned to their early-season form, easily handing losses to Goshen and Olivet. The Belles’ top four sluggers – freshman Ashley Peterson (.436), sophomore Kristin Amram (.429), senior Sarah Miesle (.408) and sophomore Ashley Fusaro (.359) – have combined for 96 runs this season. Fusaro is second in the league with six homers and Miesle is third in the league with 31 runs scored

“Instead of a few people having key hits everyone’s hitting [well], from the top to the bottom of the order,” Peterson said.

The Belles pitching staff has also been carrying their weight in the past few games, and sophomore Kristin Amram’s earned the most recent MIAA pitcher of the week honors. It is the third time in her career that she has received such an honor. Amram is second in the league with 116 strikeouts this season in 73 innings and has held batters to a .199 batting average when facing her. Alma senior Kay McDonald leads the league with 150 strikeouts in 100 innings.

The Belles will have to stay focused as they take on Hope Thursday and Kalamazoo Saturday in two more MIAA contests. Peterson said the looming league tournament, held May 5-6, isn’t occupying the team’s thoughts.

“I don’t know if it’s added pressure, but I think we all want to work hard,” she said. “We work hard all the time so as long as we keep it together, we’ll be fine.”