Last spring, the Saint Mary’s softball team defeated four teams who went on to compete in the NCAA Tournament as the Belles returned to the MIAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. This year, the team has raised the bar on their expectations and goals for what is to come in 2016.
Ten players who made at least 23 starts in 2015 and 14 total returners are back on the squad this spring. Looking to lead the way are Cassie Young ’18, Jamie Young ’18, and Jillian Busfield ’16. The three were all named All-MIAA last season and were among the team’s top five hitters in 2015. Cassie Young led the Belles in batting average, hits, at bats, and stolen bases. Jamie Young paced the team in runs scored and triples. Busfield became the program’s all-time leader in career home runs while leading the team in slugging percentage and runs batted in a year ago.
Kayla Chapman ’16, Caitlyn Migawa ’17, Sarah Burke ’16, and Mary Green ’18 were also big contributors to the team’s success a year ago. Chapman had a knack for clutch hitting in her junior season after boasting the squad’s best batting average with bases loaded. Migawa has been a mainstay both on defense and offense for the Belles through her first two seasons and led the team in putouts a season ago after making the move to first base. Burke led the pitching corps with eight victories and 21 total appearances in her junior year. Green, meanwhile, had the best earned run average while allowing the fewest walks and earning five pitching wins on the year.
Last season, the Belles were picked to finish seventh in the league before finishing fourth in the conference. This year, the team will not quite have the luxury of flying under the radar as Saint Mary’s was picked fourth in the MIAA Coaches Preseason Poll behind NFCA No. 16 Trine, No. 8 Alma, and Hope (receiving votes). But the goal is still the same – surpass the expectations of those outside of the program while balancing and making a reality of the expectations of those within the program.
The team opens the season at The Spring Games in Clermont, Florida for the second consecutive year. The Belles have a full slate of 11 games during their spring break trip to the Sunshine State. Among the non-conference competition on the Saint Mary’s schedule in 2016 are No. 10 Alfred, No. 23 Aurora, and a North Central side that received votes in the NFCA Preseason Top 25 Poll. After the spring break stint, the team is slated to host Wheaton on March 19. The Belles open conference play on April 5 against Adrian.