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SMC Softball: Belles head south to start season

Dierdre Krasula | Friday, March 10, 2006

After a tough year, the Belles just want a promising start.

Saint Mary’s begins its season this weekend with hope of rising toward the top of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) standings. The Belles leave for their 10-game spring break trip to Ft. Meyers, Fla. this week in search of improving their 7-23 overall record from the 2005 season, which included a 2-14 finish in MIAA play.

The Belles will play 10 games in five days, including matchups against Montclair State and Heidelberg Sunday.

First-year Belles coach Erin Sullivan, who played for Saint Mary’s as a student and led the team to its first ever MIAA Tournament Championship in 2004, said she will turn to veteran players like co-captains Audrey Gajor and Bridget Grall to lead the team both on and off the field.

“What I am looking for most from the juniors and seniors is the knowledge they possess on how to win the big game,” Sullivan said.

Gajor started all 16 conference games in 2005, hitting a team best .340, and she will also have the help of Grall on the mound. The Belles will look to Grall as one of their top pitchers as she pitched a team-high 62 innings last season.

Besides her co-captains, Sullivan has other leaders to turn to. Junior Laura Heline returns, giving the Belles’ defensive depth and strength in the infield. Heline was an all-MIAA selection last year at third base with the second highest batting average on the team (.327). Heline, Gajor, and Grall are accompanied by four other returning players who have the knowledge and experience to bring the team back to the success they experienced only two years ago in winning the conference title.

The seven returning members are joined by seven freshmen.

Sullivan was the 2004 MIAA batting champion and Offensive Player of the Year and returns to Saint Mary’s after completing one season as assistant coach at Bethel College.

The Irish face Edgewood and Massachusetts-Boston Monday and Cazenovia and North Park Tuesday. The team takes on Defiance and Mount Ida Wednesday and Dickinson and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Thursday.

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