KENT, Ohio - - The Ball State softball team opened its final regular season road trip with a spilt at Kent State Friday afternoon, losing the first game 7-3 and winning the nightcap 8-5.
With the split, the Cardinals improve to 33-13 (11-3 Mid-American Conference) and maintain their overall lead in the league standings. The Golden Flashes move to 26-22 (11-5 MAC) with the split.
Over the two games, the Cardinals continued there torrid home run pace, knocking two more balls out of the park to up their single-season record to 57, which is two shy of the MAC record of 59 set by the 2010 Kent State squad.
Sophomore third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) would provide the first blast in the top of the second inning of the opener, improving her season total to nine. Sophomore left fielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) launched her league-leading 15th four-bagger in the top sixth of the nightcap, which also tied her own BSU single-season record set last year.
Overall, Gilbert led the Cardinals at the plate with a .500 average, going 4-for-8 including a two-run double in the second game which upped her league-leading total in that category to 17. She also added two more runs and three more RBI to her league-leading totals.
Freshman designated player Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) and Bickel each went 3-for-7 at the plate for .429 averages on the day, with Stuedemann posting a team-high four RBI and also drawing a walk. With his in both games, Stuedemann also extended her streak of reaching base safely to 37 games.
In the circle, senior pitcher Kim Mazzapica (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake) picked up her league-leading 20th victory of the season in the second game, improving her MAC-best record to 20-3.
The Ball State softball team continues its final regular season road trip Saturday, with a 2 p.m. contest at Buffalo.
GAME 2 RECAP: Ball State 8 - Kent State 5
Freshman designated player Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) opened the second game with a double to left field, and advanced to third on a groundout. Senior catcher Amanda Montalto (Las Vegas, Nev./Palo Verde) would then drive her home with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Kent State responded with three consecutive singles to open the bottom of the first, tying the score at 1-1. However, some sloppy base running on the third hit led to the second runner being gunned down at home and helped BSU escape without further damage.
Ball State put four more runs on the scoreboard in the top of the second, as a leadoff walk to junior center fielder Amanda Carpenter (Santee, Calif./Santana) sparked a BSU rally. After a groundout, an infield single from freshman second baseman Taylor Cox (Garden Grove, Calif./Pacifica) put runners on the corners. After Cox stole second, a walk to senior shortstop Alison Mercado (Perris, Calif./Arizona Western College) loaded the bases.
Stuedemann followed with a two-run single through the right side to give the guests a 3-1 lead. Sophomore left fielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) would drive in two more runs with her MAC-leading 17th double of the season, pushing the score to 5-1.
The Golden Flashes rallied for four two-out runs in the bottom of the fourth, cutting the Ball State edge to 7-5. One of the runs came on a single from Alex Marcantonio, while the final three came on a three-run blast from Mary Holt.
After a scoreless fifth inning, Gilbert would launch her league-leading 15th home run of the season over the center field fence to extend the BSU edge back to three runs at 8-5. The blast also tied BSU's single-season home run record which was set by Gilbert last season at 15.
The Cardinals would also hold the Golden Flashes scoreless over the final two innings to complete an 8-5 victory.
Senior pitcher Kim Mazzapica (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake) picked up her league-leading 20th victory by limiting the hosts to five runs on seven hits over seven innings of work. She also struck out three batters to improve to 20-3 this year.
Danielle Abernathy suffered the loss for KSU, falling to 7-8 after allowing seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits over 4.0 innings of work. Game one winner Emma Johnson came in to pitch the final three innings, allowing just Gilbert's home run in the sixth inning, while striking out four more Ball State batters.
GAME 1 RECAP: Kent State 7 - Ball State 3
A pair of one-out walks came back to haunt the Cardinals in the top of the first, as a two-out single by Lauren Grimes drove in the game's first run.
However, sophomore third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) would answer by leading off the second with a rocket shot over the left field fence to tie the score at 1-1. Junior center fielder Amanda Carpenter (Santee, Calif./Santana) kept the rally going with a single up the middle, while freshman right fielder Loren Cihlar (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles North) reached on an error to put runners at first and second.
Following a fielder's choice from freshman second baseman Taylor Cox (Garden Grove, Calif./Pacifica) which forced out the lead runner at third, a strikeout gave the Cardinals two outs. However, freshman designated player Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) came through with a clutch two-out, two-run double to right center field to give Ball State a 3-1 edge.
After being held scoreless for three straight innings, the Golden Flashes rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 4-3 edge. A leadoff walk and three consecutive singles pushed the first run across, while two more singles following a strikeout plated the final two runs. Bickel would snag a sharp liner and tap third base for an inning-ending double play, however, to limit the damage to three.
Kent State would add three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to a three-run blast to left field which made the score 7-3.
KSU pitcher Emma Johnson would then retire the side in order in the seventh to complete the victory. In earning her 15th win of the season, Johnson (15-11) limited the Ball State offense to three runs (one earned) on five hits over seven innings. She also struck out 11 BSU batters.
Senior Audrey Workman (Wickenburg, Ariz./Yavapai College) suffered the loss in the contest, falling to 13-10 after yielding seven runs on 10 hits over six innings. She would strikeout three batters.