Saint Mary’s faces off with Mother Nature, Olivet
Dominic Bush | Friday, April 10, 2015
With conference play in full swing, the Belles are set for a busy weekend featuring six games in three days — if the Midwest spring cooperates.
Today’s doubleheader at MIAA rival Alma was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but consecutive rainouts forced its postponement.
After Friday’s trip to Alma, Michigan, the Belles (16-6, 3-1 MIAA) have a short turnaround as they play host Saturday for a doubleheader against another conference foe, Olivet.
The Belles conclude their hectic weekend by traveling to Elmhurst, Illinois, to play two against nonconference opponent Elmhurst on Sunday.
The Belles have relied on a host of new faces for the bulk of their offensive production.
“We have a strong freshmen class, no doubt about it,” Saint Mary’s head coach Kelli Zache said.
Belles freshman outfielder/third baseman Makenzie Duncan has led the team’s offense this season. She is hitting at a .431 clip with four home runs and 21 RBIs. The La Salle, Michigan, native leads the team in slugging percentage (.738), total bases (48) and doubles (eight). She ranks third in hits (28) and second in runs scored (21).
Duncan has not been the only bright spot for the class of 2018. Sisters Cassie and Jamie Young have excelled at the plate and in the field. Cassie, who anchors the outfield in center, has provided a consistent bat all season. She is one of two position players on the team batting above .400 and has been a threat on the base paths with five steals in six attempts.
Jamie Young, hitting .366, also leads the team in runs scored (23) and is a perfect 4-for-4 in steal attempts. She and classmate Kelsey Richards form one of the league’s best young double-play combos at shortstop and second base, respectively.
Alma (16-10, 7-1) is lead by one of the best pitchers in the country. Sophomore Morgan Stratton boasts a 9-3 record with a 1. 45 ERA and enters Friday’s action with 92 strikeouts on the season against only 14 walks. She was recently named the conference’s pitcher of the week and has the benefit of extra rest from the rainouts.
The Belles then face the offensive powerhouse Olivet (10-10, 2-4) on Saturday. At the heart of the Olivet lineup is freshman Kris Forest. The first baseman doubles as the team’s cleanup hitter, and she comes in batting .411 with two home runs and 25 RBIs. Forest is joined by sophomore pitcher Ashlynn Grubb, who is batting .470 and leads the team in hits with 31.
Elmhurst (15-7, 1-1 CCIW) is built around senior Bella Masini. The second baseman presents the biggest challenge for Belles pitching on Sunday. Masini carries a .383 batting average along with 16 RBIs and 30 total bases, both of which are team highs among qualified players.
Zache said the Belles know they have their work cut out for them during such a busy weekend. With the MIAA tournament fast approaching, Zache said the quality of Saint Mary’s schedule has prepared them for postseason play.
“So far this season, I wouldn’t say we have played weaker opponents. We have a tough schedule this year,” Zache said.
Zache also said she remains positive and excited about what her young team “can accomplish this season and seasons to come.”
Weather permitting, today’s first pitch in Alma, Michigan, will be 3:30 p.m. Saturday’s doubleheader at the Saint Mary’s softball fields is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., as is Sunday’s away series in Elmhurst.