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SMC Softball

Belles knock off previously-unbeaten North Central in Saturday split

| Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Saint Mary’s split a doubleheader with previously-unbeaten, No. 11 North Central on Saturday, winning the opener 6-4 before falling 7-4 in the second game.

Belles junior Sarah Burke pitched a complete game in the win, stranding 13 Cardinals runners en route to the victory.

Saint Mary's junior catcher/first baseman Jillian Busfield takes a cut during an April 19 doubleheader against Adrian.Caroline Genco | The Observer

Saint Mary’s junior catcher/first baseman Jillian Busfield takes a cut during an April 19 doubleheader against Adrian.

North Central (11-1) struck first in the early game, turning a leadoff single into a run in the bottom of the first. In the second, the Cardinals loaded the bases with just one out but Burke pitched out of it, getting out of the situation without surrendering a run.

Saint Mary’s (9-5) then leveled the score in the top of the third when first-year center fielder Cassie Young drove in junior left fielder Sarah Callis on an RBI single.

After a scoreless fourth, the Belles broke the game open in the top of the fifth with a four-run inning.

First-year right fielder Makenzie Duncan led off the inning with a single up the middle before Callis reached on an error, allowing Duncan to advance to third. After Callis stole second, first-year shortstop Jamie Young singled past the shortstop to get the Belles on the board in the frame.

Cassie Young singled home another run to make it 3-1 before junior designated player Jillian Busfield’s 2-RBI single up the middle capped the inning, leaving the Belles nine outs away from handing North Central its first loss of the season.

North Central scored a run in the bottom of the fifth but the Belles answered in the top of the sixth when first-year catcher Kayla Raymer drove in the Belles’ final run of the day on a fielders’ choice.

Burke’s ability to work out of jams played a large role in the upset win for Saint Mary’s as the Cardinals left runners on base in every inning.

North Central tallied twice more — once in the sixth and once in the seventh — but it was not enough to come back and avoid its first loss of the season.

The second game went the other way, as North Central rebounded with a three-run victory.

After the Belles scored twice in the top of the first, the Cardinals went on the offensive, scoring all seven of their runs in the first four innings to chase Belles first-year right-hander Morgan Raymer from the game after just 3 and a third innings. While Raymer did not walk a batter, she gave up eight hits and hit two batters. First year Jessica Alberts entered in relief, shutting down the Cardinals in the fifth and sixth after seeing an inherited runner score in the fourth.

Alberts’s strong performance in relief gave the Belles a chance to catch up, though, and they rallied in the seventh to make it a game again. First-year second baseman Kelsey Richards singled to start the inning before Duncan knocked her in to cut the North Central lead to 7-3. After a pitching change, Callis reached on an error to score Duncan.

The Belles then loaded the bases with one outs but failed to push any more runs across as Busfield grounded into a 5-2-3 double play to end the game.

Saint Mary’s returns to action Tuesday at Adrian, with first pitch slated for 3:30 p.m. in the Belles’ conference opener. The Bulldogs (10-8, 0-2 MIAA) dropped a 3-0 decision to Trine on Monday.

The Belles will then return home for their home opener Wednesday when they host Defiance.

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