SMC Softball: Belles to host conference rival Hope in doubleheader
Joseph Monardo | Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Having managed to persevere through a tough stretch of games, the Belles aim to leave their struggles behind when they host Hope for a conference doubleheader today.
Saint Mary’s (12-11, 1-5 MIAA) takes the field for its first game since Tuesday, when the Belles split the pair of games with Franklin. After dropping the first game, the Belles captured the second decision 11-0, displaying their offensive power.
“Our hitters feel like they finally got back on track the second game on Tuesday,” Belles coach Erin Sullivan said.
The Belles will have the advantage of extra rest as they prepare for Hope (17-10-1, 5-1 MIAA), following the postponement of their doubleheader against Olivet, which had been scheduled for Saturday.
Saint Mary’s will be tasked with finding a way to challenge the Flying Dutch, who Sullivan said consistently offer stiff opposition.
“They always play a really close game, they do not really get slaughtered a lot or slaughter a lot of teams, they just get the job done,” she said. “They brought back the same pitchers from last year, so we are not looking for a very different team out of them, just another tough game from them since they tend to play pretty hard every year.”
The Hope pitching staff, which consists of seniors Michelle Marra and Andrea Reinecke, boasts an ERA of 3.17 in 179 innings pitched this season. The Belles have focused especially on preparing to face the seasoned duo of pitchers, but their practice ritual has otherwise remained unchanged.
“It has just been doing the normal stuff,” said freshman first baseman Chelsea Fordon. “We have been doing infield and hitting to prepare. We have heard they have a pretty good [pitching staff], so we have been hitting live off of our pitchers.”
Although they have not tinkered extensively with their weekly ritual, the Belles fully appreciate how important the final games on their schedule are, including today’s two games.
“It is the most important part of our season,” Sullivan said. “It is conference [play]. All those other games that we played, this is what we are playing for, is to win these. We are kind of in a must-win situation in a way because we are coming back, but we have played the top teams in the conference already. I just told my team, ‘Beat the teams we are supposed to beat,’ and these last few teams are among that group.”
Saint Mary’s has not yet earned a bid for the postseason MIAA tournament, which places extra importance on the upcoming conference games.
“The next games are mostly all conference games, so we are going in trying to win these next six games,” Fordon said. “In order to get a spot in the conference tournament, we have to do really well these next six games, so it is going to be ideal to win them all.”
Sullivan said it would be important for her players to play with confidence in their matchup against Hope.
“Confidence in all the past, the hard work they put in [will be key],” she said. “We have had a really good week of hitting, and my pitchers should be well rested, so we just need them to throw good games, take control of each inning, each situation, and we will be winning, finally.”
The Belles take the field for the home doubleheader at 3:30 p.m.