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Belles undergo developmental season, looks to find consistency in returning team

| Friday, May 19, 2023

Despite playing 36 games to an 11-25 overall record this season, Saint Mary’s Softball remains optimistic about the future. The team suffered a brutal conclusion to the season, as Belles dropped their final two games of the season to the Calvin Knights on May 6 by a combined margin of 30-0. Those losses dropped the Belles 4-12 in conference contests. Record aside, co-head coach Cassie Young was pleased with the effort in practice and overall morale among the team.

“Our record doesn’t reflect the way our team performed in practice,” Young said. “There’s been a lot of bright spots, and I think overall morale has been good. It seems like there are always good vibes.”

According to Young, many girls on the team played out of position. This resulted in some tough losses, with the mercy rule applied in seven games. The Belles went 0-9 on the road but were able to capture a few wins at home, going 6-11 in South Bend. They went a solid 5-5 in neutral site contests. Nevertheless, the Belles had some notable performances over the season. They beat Hope College 4-2 on April 10 in the front half of a doubleheader. It was the Belles’ first time taking down the Flying Dutch since April 25, 2019.

“Hope’s normally a pretty good team,” Young said. “As for the girls, knowing they can beat teams like that when we play a good, clean game does a lot for their confidence.” 

The Belles’ longest win streak was four games, achieved through consecutive doubleheader sweeps over Olivet and Manchester. Though Young claimed she could name everyone on the team when discussing standout players, she specifically landed on senior second basemen and pitcher Caitlin Traxler and junior pitcher and infielder Libby Bierbaum.

“Caitlin Traxler, one of our captains, has done a lot to step up pitching-wise and hitting-wise,” Young said. “She’ll be back next year. Libby Bierbaum has stood out to me too. She’s been our ace, starting game one [of the series]. She’s tough, has a good attitude and good mindset.” 

Despite the growing pains, Young is pleased to see all her roster returning. With so many familiar faces, developing consistency will be the focus for 2024 and beyond. 

“We just plan to do what we keep doing,” Young said. “It is always there. You can tell there’s always a lot of bright spots in games. It’s maybe just a lack of consistency. We will just try to keep things positive and keep building.”

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