Belles compete in the present while building for the future
Matthew Crow | Friday, May 13, 2022
Saint Mary’s softball faced many strong teams during their season, but the opponent that gave them the most trouble came in the form of precipitation.
“The weather has not been in our favor,” Saint Mary‘s co-head coach Cassie Young said with a rueful laugh.
Unplayable weather conditions forced over a dozen of the team’s games to be canceled or postponed. A particularly disruptive stretch at the end of March left the Belles with no games for three consecutive weeks. This forced Saint Mary’s to adapt while trying to make the best of a tough situation.
“It’s been a little bit of a struggle having to either cancel games or trying to figure out how to practice inside and make it beneficial,” Young said. “The girls are doing great. They’ve just got to deal with what they’re given.”
The season began with a trip to Florida during spring break, where the Belles played seven games over the course of the week. After the previous two years were disrupted by the pandemic, the team used the early-season games to get comfortable and back into the swing of things.
“The biggest goal was just trying to get girls playing,” Young said. “Most of them lost a year for COVID, last year we didn’t play any non-conference teams. We really didn’t have a lot of game experience.”
Belles gain experience, finish strong
Saint Mary’s lost their first five games in Florida but finished on a high note with back-to-back wins. The Belles carried that momentum with them back to Indiana. There, they swept a doubleheader on the road against Manchester in their first games after the trip.
Throughout the season, junior second baseman Caitlin Traxler and freshman outfielder Alexis Rauch led the Belles offensively. Senior Mandi Hettinger and sophomore Libby Bierbaum performed well in the pitching circle. With a largely inexperienced roster, Young called several players into new roles. She was pleased with how they stepped up and improved over the course of the season.
“They’re getting better every day,” Young said. “Everyone is just getting a little more comfortable in what we’re doing. We have some girls playing some spots that they haven’t before.”
After a string of difficult losses, the Belles’ bats broke out in a dominant doubleheader in which they outscored conference opponent Adrian 24-7 over a two-game sweep.
“Hitting was a little bit of a struggle for a while,” Young said. “There were a couple of days that we played some tough teams and it was not necessarily a good showing of what we can actually do. But Saturday [against Adrian] we looked good.”
The Belles finished their season 7-9 in conference play. They won three of their final four conference games and closed with a Senior Day doubleheader sweep over Albion. As the Belles closed out their campaign, Young felt strongly they have built a strong foundation for the year-to-year continuity that is needed to build a consistent, winning program.
“[We’re] setting a standard of what we expect and holding them accountable to that,” Young said. “They’ll learn that and when the next kids come in, they’ll teach them that and then we’ll all be on the same page.”