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SMC Softball: Belles to face struggling MIAA opponent Calvin

Christopher Masoud | Monday, March 30, 2009

Eyeing a second MIAA playoff berth in as many years, the Belles will travel to Grand Rapids, Mich., to open league play against a struggling Calvin team today.

Saint Mary’s (14-2) is coming off a convincing sweep of Franklin last week, where the Belles trounced the Grizzlies 13-0 and 3-0 in the doubleheader. Fourth-year head coach Erin Sullivan believes it was her team’s outstanding team chemistry that led to such a dominating performance.

“It wasn’t just one standout player,” Sullivan said. “Our pitchers did a great job, but if you look at the stats for the hitters, it wasn’t the same person dominating all the time. It’s not one person who wins the game for us.”

Calvin (1-8) will try to begin the MIAA season with a win after losing eight consecutive games to start the 2009 campaign. The Knights have some momentum heading into today’s game having picked up their first victory of the year by defeating St. Catherine of Minn. 7-4 their last time out.

But Coach Sullivan and the Belles couldn’t care less about their opponent’s record. Each game is an opportunity to get one step closer to the playoffs and an MIAA title.

“Our conference is really competitive all across the board and it just depends which team decides to show up on their end and ours,” Sullivan said. “We’re playing them like they’re the best team in the conference, like we’ll play every other team. They probably just had a slow start. Who knows?”

Freshman Monica Palicki is expected to start the first game, while fellow first-year Angela Gillis is expected to start the second. Palicki and Gillis have a 1.32 and 0.79 ERA respectively, while combining for 15 complete games.

Shortstop Maureen Healy and clean-up hitter Ashley Fusaro will have to carry the Belles offensively, who will be missing All-American outfielder Ashley Peterson in the lineup. Healey went 5-for-7 against the Grizzlies last week, while Fusaro is batting close to .500.

“I believe that we’ve actually been getting stronger, which is good for us,” Sullivan said. “In past years we’ve started really strong in Florida and then fizzled a little bit at the end. Our whole theme for this year is finishing the race.”

For the Belles and the Knights, the regular season race to the playoffs begins today at 3:30 p.m. at Gainey Field.