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SMC Softball: Belles break out of slump with wins

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Saint Mary’s posted back-to-back sweeps of Robert Morris and Albion to end the team’s two-game losing streak.

“We bounced back well because we didn’t play the way we wanted to against Alma and we just wanted to have a couple of good games against a non-conference opponent with Robert Morris,” Belles coach Erin Sullivan said. “It got us right back to the game we’ve been playing all year, and our hitters were hitting from the top of the lineup to the bottom.”

The Belles (22-4, 6-2 MIAA) took the field Wednesday fully aware of the importance of beating non-league opponent Robert Morris for favorable playoff positioning. They dominated the Eagles (20-17, 7-3 CCAC) from start to finish, taking the twinbill by scores of 3-2 and 8-0.

Senior Cathy Kurczak and freshman Lauren Enyati led the charge for Saint Mary’s in game one, driving in all three runs and giving the Belles the edge over the Eagles. Freshman hurler Monica Palicki scattered five hits over the course of seven innings to pick up the win.

In a display of confident hitting and fundamental softball, Saint Mary’s crushed any chance of a split for the Eagles by winning their 20th game of the season in the nightcap. Wednesday’s win marks the fourth straight season that the Belles have won at least 20 games, a feat that can be attributed to the leadership of Sullivan in her fourth year in the position of head coach.

“My seniors, from the day they got here as freshman, have just changed the program and set a new tone for us,” Sullivan said. “Ashley Fusaro and Katie Rashid are two wins away from 100 career wins, which no one has ever been remotely close to.”

Freshman Angela Gillis continued her exceptional debut season by going the distance for Saint Mary’s in a two-hit shutout. Enyati and Senior Ashley Fusaro each had three hits in a complete team effort.

But the highlight of the week came on Saturday, when the Belles topped MIAA opponent Albion by scores of 6-4 and 8-1 in a doubleheader.

In game one, the Belles came back from a 1-0 deficit in the first inning by scoring three runs in the bottom of the frame to take a lead they wouldn’t give up. Junior Ashley Peterson picked up an RBI after scoring Enyati on a double off the left field wall, which was followed by a single from sophomore Hayley Bojorquez to drive in another run.

Kurczak added an insurance run in the fourth after reaching home on a Peterson ground-out. Palicki lowered her ERA to 2.09 and picked up her 10th win of the season by going the distance.

The back end of the doubleheader quickly turned into a blowout, as the Belles pounded out runs early and often to set the tone. After jumping to an early 2-0 lead, Saint Mary’s added three more in the fourth, highlighted by Fusaro’s 15th career home run, a soaring drive over the center field fence.

Gillis picked up her 12th win of the year by scattering four hits over seven innings and lowering her ERA to 0.80. Gillis was named MIAA Pitcher of the Week for the second consecutive week as the Granger, Ind. native was honored for her outstanding performances against Robert Morris and Albion.

“She moves the ball well and always hits her spots for the most part,” Sullivan said. “When I told her she was the pitcher of the week again, her only response was, ‘It’s all because of the defense.’ She’s very humble.”

The Belles will host Hope (13-17, 6-6 MIAA) today at 3:30 p.m. as they look to extend their hot streak to six games.