April 30th, 2015

Bellarmine softball looks to win GLVC

Adam Pruiett

Bellarmine University Assistant S.I.D

Bellarmine softball looks to win GLVC
Bellarmine softball team / photo from Bellarmine athletics

A landmark season was already in the books, but the Bellarmine University softball team still entered the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament last season with something to prove as far as landing a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

The Knights did indeed make the necessary statement, polishing off their resume by advancing to the championship round and ultimately earning a bid to the Midwest Regional.

Circumstances this season haven't changed all that much for Bellarmine as it prepares for the latest installment of the GLVC Tournament. Once again, the Knights (32-14, 20-8 GLVC) have had tremendous success, tying for the second-most overall wins in program history. But once again, BU feels there's more work to be done in the conference tournament to bolster its NCAA credentials. The Midwest Regional will consist of eight teams, and the Knights have been ranked regionally in the 6-8 range.

"We can't go in and go two out or we could be in trouble as far as regionals," Bellarmine Coach Renee Hicks said. "We want to play in that championship game or at least win a couple games to show who we are."

Fifth-seeded Bellarmine opens the eight-team, double-elimination GLVC Tournament at 11 a.m. (ET) Friday against fourth-seeded Truman State (32-12, 21-7) at EastSide Centre in East Peoria, Illinois. It's the 11th straight year the tournament has been held at the venue.

Bellarmine's doubleheader with Truman State in the regular season was perhaps the Knights' most disappointing day of play this year. BU dropped the first game 4-3 after leading 2-1 heading into the last inning and fell 2-1 in the finale in another game that was decided in the final frame. Critical errors by the Knights in both games led to the defeats.

"The girls were upset but, again, errors that normally don't occur just did," Hicks said. "We know we can't make those errors (in the GLVC Tournament) and that everything effort-wise has to be at 110 percent."

Like Bellarmine, Truman State carries a pair of pitchers who offer the Bulldogs the possibility of defeating any opponent. Kelsea Dorsey (16-4, 2.22 ERA, 112 strikeouts) and Kindra Henze (16-8, 2.82 ERA, 124 strikeouts) have combined for all 32 of the team's victories, splitting them evenly.

Pop at the plate hasn't been an issue for Truman State either. Liz Leath (11 homers, 29 RBIs) is fourth in the GLVC with a .401 average, and Andrea Klipsch (.341) is tied for second in home runs with 16 and fourth in RBIs with 42. In addition, Lex Van Nostrand is hitting .388 and Ally McReynolds is at .344.

Bellarmine will counter with junior right-hander Ally Foster (17-3), who leads the GLVC in ERA at 0.98 and has broken her own single-season school record with 257 strikeouts, and senior left-hander Alicia Miller (12-9, 2.03), who recently became the program's all-time leader in pitching wins.

A consensus All-American last season, Foster is also leading the Knights at the plate with a .315 batting average along with 10 home runs. Senior center fielder Hannah Daunhauer (.307, eight homers), sophomore outfielder Rachel Fox (.310), sophomore shortstop Erica Knollman (.289) and senior catcher Scarlett Powers (team-high 27 RBIs) are among the Knights' leaders offensively.

Bellarmine enters the GLVC Tournament after sweeping Maryville and earning a split with third-ranked Missouri-St. Louis, the two-time defending tourney champion. The latter, a 5-3 victory for the Knights over the Tritons that featured a complete-game victory for Foster and a go-ahead RBI triple by Knollman in the eighth, came in the regular-season finale.

"They're a classy team and well-deserving of their ranking, so beating a team like that gets our momentum going and gets the kids excited going into tournament play," Hicks said.

Hicks believes the ability to play sound softball and have the right mentality will factor heavily in the team's results in the GLVC Tournament, which will see each team play twice Friday, competition culminate Saturday with semifinal action and a winner crowned on Sunday.

"We worked yesterday totally on fundamentals: ground balls, cutoffs, communication," Hicks said. "I told them that what they did yesterday has to be carried on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That's what got us in the championship game last year. There was teamwork, communication, getting along. If somebody messed up, it was everybody's fault. We have to have that same type of reaction this year."

In other first-round games, top-seeded Missouri-St. Louis (40-6, 25-5) will face No. 8 seed Rockhurst (26-20, 16-14); second-seeded Indianapolis (38-10, 23-5) will clash with No. 7 seed Illinois Springfield (31-20, 16-14); and third-seeded Southern Indiana (37-7, 22-6) will battle No. 6 seed Lewis (25-20, 15-13).



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