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Belles Top No. 7 Thunder in MIAA Tournament Opener

Megan Knudsen swings at a pitch as several members of the opposing team look on in the background.
ANGOLA, Ind. - With the game tied 3-3 going into the final inning, the Belles plated two big runs in the top of the seventh and held off a late push by host Trine to take a 5-4 win over the No. 7 ranked Thunder in both teams' first game of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) Tournament on Friday.
The Belles got on the scoreboard first. Molly Mirabelli drew a two-out walk in the top of the second inning, and Krystal Harris lofted a triple to right-center field to plate Mirabelli. Sydney Swartz then dropped a single into left field as Harris came across to score for the 2-0 advantage.
Trine used their own two-out rally in the bottom half of the third inning to knot things up at 2-2. A walk followed by a single through the left side allowed runners to score from second and third. Kelsey Keilman, however, came up clutch on defense as the junior snagged a deep fly ball over her shoulder at the warning track to end the inning.
Saint Mary's came right back with a run in the top of the fourth inning. Mirabelli led off with a double to right field. Two batters later, a single by Sydney Swartz put runners at the corners. Alyssa Gutierrez then drove in Mirabelli from third with a fielder's choice for the 3-2 lead.
The Thunder countered with a run in the bottom half of the inning. An error kept the inning alive for Trine with two outs, and back-to-back singles pushed a run across from second base for a 3-3 score. Both teams had big double plays in the fifth inning as each side put runners on base with less than two outs. The Belles and the Thunder each stranded runners in the sixth inning as the game moved onward.
In the top of the seventh, Kelsey Keilman led off with a well-placed infield single. Two batters later, JoAnna Keilman beat out an infield single of her own. Mandi Hettinger drew a walk to load the bases with one out gone. Megan Knudsen then delivered a big single to deep left field, which allowed both Keilmans to score standing up on the play as the Belles took a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the seventh.
The Thunder got a run back with a lead-off home run, but back-to-back pop up outs put the Belles one out away from closing out the game. Trine continued to push the issue as the Thunder tallied back-to-back singles. In the end, Mandi Hettinger drew a fly out to Kelsey Keilman in center field to preserve the 5-4 win.
Krystal Harris went 2-for-3 with a triple, an RBI, and a run. Sydney Swartz posted a 2-for-3 effort with an RBI. JoAnna Keilman was 2-for-4 at the plate with a run. Molly Mirabelli had a double and scored twice. Megan Knudsen drove in the deciding runs for a pair of RBI. Alyssa Gutierrez tallied an RBI, and Kelsey Keilman scored once.
Mandi Hettinger went the distance in the circle as she scatted nine hits over seven innings, allowed three earned runs, struck out one, and allowed one extra-base hit.
The Belles will face off against Calvin in the winners' bracket game on Saturday morning. Friday night's elimination game between Trine and Hope was halted due to darkness at the start of the ninth inning with the score tied at 4-4. That game will resume at 11:15 a.m. on Saturday. Saint Mary's and Calvin will play following the elimination game. The winner of the game between Saint Mary's and Calvin will then wait to see who wins the second elimination game of the day.

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