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SMC Softball

Belles split four MIAA games, hold fourth spot in conference

| Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Saint Mary’s won two and lost two in its four games over the weekend, sweeping Albion and dropping both games against Hope.

The Belles (17-14, 7-5 MIAA) dominated the Brits (6-27, 0-16) on Friday, outscoring Albion, 21-3, in the two games of the doubleheader. Starting off game one slowly, the Belles were tied after three innings, 1-1. Soon enough, however, the Belles’ offense erupted, scoring seven runs on nine hits in the top of the fourth. Sophomore center fielder Cassie Young had two singles and two RBIs in the frame.

Albion was unable to score for the rest of the game while Saint Mary’s added to its lead in the seventh inning with an RBI double from sophomore designated player and pitcher Morgan Raymer, while junior first baseman Caitlyn Migawa came around to score when the Albion pitcher balked. The first game ended 10-1 with Raymer earning the win with just two hits and a run allowed in five innings of work.

Saint Mary's sophomore outfielder Makenzie Duncan reaches second base during the Belles' 6-5 loss to Adrian at Saint Joseph High School North Field Complex on April 5. Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Saint Mary’s sophomore outfielder Makenzie Duncan reaches second base during the Belles’ 6-5 loss to Adrian at Saint Joseph High School North Field Complex on April 5.

Saint Mary’s hot offense continued into the second game, opening up a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first behind a sacrifice fly off the bat of Young and an RBI double from senior third baseman Kayla Chapman. Albion answered with two runs of their own in the top of the third to tie the game.

The Belles topped their first game’s seven-run inning with an eight-run outburst in the bottom of the third. The inning was highlighted by two-run home runs from both Chapman and senior catcher Jillian Busfield as Saint Mary’s took the commanding 10-2 lead.

The game was stopped by the nine-run rule as the Belles were up 11-2 at the conclusion of the top of the fifth. Senior Sarah Burke earned the win with three strikeouts in four complete innings pitched.

Belles head coach Kelli Zache attributed the Belles’ success to an adjustment with hitting.

“We made some adjustments early on,” Zache said. “We started off the first couple innings in game one a little slow, then we made some adjustments that carried into game two. They had a little bit slower pitching than what we were used to, and we were initially swinging for the fences. So we shortened up a bit, and the thought was that ground balls and line drives would get through.”

The next day Saint Mary’s took on Hope, who currently sits at third in the conference, in another doubleheader. Neither the Belles nor the Flying Dutch (20-14, 9-3) could get on the scoreboard after two innings in the first game. Hope broke the scoreless tie with an RBI single to right field in the bottom of the third though. The Belles responded in the top of the fifth inning with a lead-off home run from sophomore right fielder Makenzie Duncan.

The two teams combined for a total of three hits throughout the remainder of regulation until a walk-off RBI single from Flying Dutch senior shortstop Jenna Maury clinched the game in the bottom of the eighth inning. Raymer took the loss on the mound with two earned runs on seven hits with six strikeouts while pitching the entire game for the Belles.

“In the first game we came out ready to play,” Zache said. “Neither of us could hit but we went eight innings with them. Then in the second game we would hit, but it was right to the defense. We couldn’t get anything to fall in and we couldn’t get the momentum in our corner.”

The second game of the day was not as tightly contested as the first as Hope jumped out to an early lead, plating three runs over the first two innings. The Belles received lead-off hits from Duncan and Young in the third and fourth innings but were unable to capitalize.

In the fifth inning, Hope brought in another three runs, extending the lead to 6-0. The Belles were unable to score any runs in the game while Hope tacked on one more, ending the game with a final score 7-0.

Looking ahead, the Belles have two games out of conference against Defiance on Tuesday and then an MIAA doubleheader with Kalamazoo on Wednesday. The Hornets (10-19, 6-6) are currently one game behind Saint Mary’s in the conference standings.

“We really need to take two with Kalamazoo,” Zache said. “This will ensure us getting into the tournament. It’s going to be a quick turnaround, playing four games in two days, so we need to play smart ball and play our game.”

Currently in fourth place in the MIAA, the Belles will need to at least hold their position in the standings in order to make the postseason tournament, which will take place May 5-7.

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About R.J. Stempak

R.J. Stempak is a sophomore computer science major who enjoys basketball.

Contact R.J.