Belles start strong in Florida, will host Dominican on Sunday
Observer Sports Staff | Thursday, March 19, 2015
A five-day, 10-game trip to Florida last week yielded positive results for Saint Mary’s as the Belles head into their home opener Sunday having won eight of 10 contests.
Saint Mary’s kicked off its season March 8 with a pair of shutout wins in Clermont, Florida, the team’s base for spring break. An 8-0, 5-inning win over Juniata started the day off while the Belles capped off a successful day with a 7-0 win over Finlandia. A pair of Saint Mary’s pitchers — junior Sarah Burke and freshman Jessica Alberts — combined for a no-hitter against Juniata (3-5), the program’s first since a 2009 no-hitter against Goshen. Freshmen Morgan Raymer and Mary Green combined for the shutout victory against Finlandia (4-16).
March 9 brought more success for the Belles, as they recorded a pair of wins, defeating Thiel 7-2 and Stockton 6-3. The Belles trailed 2-0 through four innings but the Belles turned on the offense from there, scoring five in the top of the fifth and two in the top of the sixth to secure the win over the Tomcats (7-3). Junior catcher Jillian Busfield hit a three-run, game-winning home run for the Belles in the fifth and knocked in another insurance run in the sixth inning.
In the second game of the day, Saint Mary’s used a four-run second inning to grab its fourth win of the year. Freshman right fielder Makenzie Duncan’s three-run homer led the Belles offense as the Ospreys (8-1) were unable to significantly close the gap the rest of the way.
The Belles finally tasted defeat March 10, though it took more than the standard seven innings for them to do so. Bethany jumped ahead 2-0 in the top of the first after a two-out error kept the inning alive, though the Belles did not trail for long. With two outs in the bottom of the first, Busfield hit another three-run home run, giving Saint Mary’s a 3-2 lead. The Bison (7-5) clawed back to 3-3 before scoring twice in each the sixth and seventh to hold a 7-3 lead heading to the bottom of the final frame. Behind some small ball, Saint Mary’s rallied to force extra innings with a four-run bottom of the seventh. However, it was not meant to be for the Belles, as a two-run eighth gave Bethany the edge t0 secure the 9-8 win in eight.
Saint Mary’s bounced back in its second game of the day though, defeating Webster 10-5. The offensive output produced by the Belles against the Gorloks (2-9) was the highest of the trip for Saint Mary’s.
March 11 saw another two-win day come together for Saint Mary’s as wins over Roger Williams and Heidelberg took the Belles to 7-1 on the young season. The Belles needed an extra frame to get by Roger Williams (4-5) in the day’s early game but did it with little issue, taking down the Hawks 6-2 in eight innings. Behind small ball and a few errors committed by their opponent, Saint Mary’s plated five runs in the top of the eighth and held on for the four-run win.
The 5-1 win over Heidelberg (8-2) was a much more straightforward win for the Belles to cap the day. Burke pitched a complete game and allowed just an unearned run against the Student Princes, who managed just six hits over the course of seven innings.
The Belles’ trip concluded with a split, falling to Stockton 4-1 in a rematch before defeating Transylvania 3-2 to end the trip on a high note. The Belles managed just two hits in the early game before rallying from a 2-1 deficit against the Pioneers (4-7) to bounce back with a win on the final day of the trip.
Burke’s ERA sits at 2.14 on the season, surrendering just 10 earned runs in 32 innings so far.
Saint Mary’s will welcome Dominican for its home opener Sunday at 1 p.m. The Stars (9-3) will come in on the heels of a doubleheader with Mount Mary on Saturday but have momentum of their own, posting a 17-1 thrashing of Alfred State last time out.