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SMC Softball: Belles look to recover losses

Joseph Monardo | Thursday, April 7, 2011

Coming off back-to-back losses against conference foe Alma Saturday, the Belles look to capture a pair of wins in their second MIAA doubleheader of the season.

When it squares off against Trine (14-5), Saint Mary’s (10-5, 0-2 MIAA) has a chance to improve on its most recent outings in which overall good play was nullified by short stretches of offensive explosions by the opposition.

In their 10-6 loss in the first game against Alma, the Belles allowed four runs each in two innings. In the second game, the Belles surrendered three runs each in two more big innings, as they fell by a score of 7-1.

To ensure that they are on top of their game as they try to add to their win column, the Belles head into the matchup with a special focus.

“We go in there knowing what we have to do, knowing our strengths and making sure [we] have good communication,” junior pitcher Monica Palicki said.

That communication will be crucial against the Thunder, as Saint Mary’s will have to adjust to its opponent’s style in a number of ways, Belles coach Erin Sullivan noted.

“They like to play a lot of small ball, a lot of suicide squeezes to try to score their runs,” she said. “Their first pitcher throws very hard, so we are just preparing for a little bit faster pitching and we are preparing our defense for working on a lot of small ball situations in practice.”

The doubleheader marks the midway point of a conference road trip of sorts, as the Belles traveled to Alma last weekend and will travel to Aidan on Saturday. Despite the grueling schedule that includes six away games in the span of one week, Palicki says the Belles still manage to enjoy themselves.

“The schoolwork [is a challenge] when we get really busy,” Palicki said. “But being on this team, we have to learn how to do time management, so I think that helps us a lot. [The traveling] is actually kind of fun — it is like team bonding on the way there and then team bonding on the way back.”

If team unity improves as a result of their travelling, the Belles will be better for it. Palicki said the team’s unity is especially important to her when she is on the mound, as it gives her added confidence and allows all of Saint Mary’s to shift its focus on how to best the opposition.

“Being a pitcher, I know that my team is behind me and that we are going to have great defense and good offense, and then [we can focus] on finding their weakness and bring those out so we can capitalize on that and [score] on them,” she said.

Palicki leads the Belles with a 3.32 ERA this season and brings a 5-2 record into the upcoming contest. Freshman pitcher Callie Selner has fallen right into line behind the veteran, as she carries a 3.55 ERA to go along with her 5-3 record.

Both pitchers look to receive support from a Saint Mary’s offense that has haunted opposing pitching with a .363 batting average, while scoring 106 runs through the first 15 games of the season. Despite somewhat meager offensive outputs in their two most recent contests, the Belles remain confident they can use the experience gained in every game to ultimately improve their play.

“We are learning a lot more about ourselves and I think that we are a great team,” Palicki said. “We are a young team, but we have connected pretty great and we have found what works for us, and how to keep that going — how to take things from past games and take them into the next games.”

The Belles take the field looking to capture their first conference win of the season against Trine. The first pitch of today’s doubleheader is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.