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SMC Softball: Belles off to fast start after trip to Florida

Meaghan Veselik | Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saint Mary’s started off its season with a string of victories over break on a trip to Fort Myers, Fla. playing in the Gene Cusic Classic. The Belles went 9-1 for the week, one of their most successful starts to the season in school history.

“I was very happy with our play this week. Our defense was solid and our pitching was fantastic,” Belles coach Erin Sullivan said.

Saint Mary’s played doubleheaders each day in the tournament, opening the week with two victories on Mar. 8. The Belles took down Drew University (N.J.) 3-2 in the morning on junior Ashley Peterson game-winning RBI to plate junior Maureen Healy. Freshman pitcher Angela Gillis stuck out five and allowed zero walks in her first collegiate action. The Belles finished off the day with a 5-2 win over Wheaton College (Mass.). Peterson and senior Ashley Fusaro hit back-to-back home runs to secure the win. Fusaro’s shot was the 15th of her career. Freshman pitcher Monica Palicki allowed only six hits over the seven innings and had four strikeouts in the game.

On Monday, Mar. 9, the wins kept coming for the Belles. Palicki led the team to a 5-0 win over Worcester Polytechnic Institute, allowing only two hits and striking out five. Peterson and Healy went 3-4 in the game with Peterson knocking out her second home run in two days. Later in the day, the squad won an 11-1 victory over Wheelock (Mass.). Gillis pitched her second collegiate win, allowing only one run and striking out five in six innings before freshman Symone Pompey closed out the game.

Day three saw Saint Mary’s record move to 6-0 with wins over SUNY Oswego and Fitchburg State. The Belles won 10-2 over SUNY Oswego in six innings before the game ended due to the mercy rule. Four players had mulit-hit games, led by Lauren Enayati, who went 3-3. Palicki gave up five hits in six innings with one walk. Against Fitchburg, Gillis moved her record to 3-0, allowing only four singles with eight strikeouts.

The Belles suffered their first loss Wednesday afternoon against Rensseelaer Polytechnic Institute (N.Y.), going 1-1 for the day with a win versus Elms (Mass.). They won 3-1 over Elms led by Enayati going 3-4 from the plate. Gillis allowed just three hits while striking out five. RPI beat the Belles 14-4, but Peterson continued her impressive start to the year, going 4-for-4 offensively with a double and a triple while scoring a pair of runs. Palicki got her first career loss, putting her at 3-1.

Saint Mary’s finished up their season with a pair of wins on Thursday against Curry and Bowdoin Colleges. They won 5-0 over Curry with five Belles having multi-hit games, including Fusaro going 4-4 and scoring two runs. Palicki allowed only three hits and struck out four in the win. In their final game of the week, Enayati hit a bases-loaded triple in the top of the seventh to break a scoreless tie and give the Belles a 3-0 lead. Two batters later, Peterson drove in Enayati for the fourth run of the game. Gillis improved her record to 5-0, allowing four hits over seven innings with zero walks.

Looking back on their first week of play, Sullivan was more than satisfied with her team.

“We really had a team effort to win nine of our 10 games. Everyone on this team has a role and contributed greatly to our performance. Ashley Peterson and Ashley Fusaro were incredible both offensively and defensively. Hayley Bojorquez kept us in our first game by throwing out a runner at home from right field, which she did twice during the week.”

It’s hard to say what our best win was this week, but I was especially happy with our games against Wheaton and Bowdoin,” Sullivan, a 2004 Saint Mary’s graduate, said. “Both schools have excellent programs and we had to play our best to beat both teams.”

Saint Mary’s looks to keep their luck going as they open their home play with a doubleheader against Goshen College at 3:30 today. Goshen didn’t have a team last season, so the Belles are unsure of what to expect from this rookie team.

“We have more experience, but they will definitely challenge us,” Sullivan said. “I am hoping to keep trying out different line-ups and batting orders in these early non-conference games in order to prepare for our conference opener on March 30.”