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Softball Opens MAC Tournament With Western Michigan
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►THE SECOND SEASON STARTS NOW: The No. 1 seed Ball State softball team opens play in the 2012 Mid-American Conference Tournament Thursday with a 5 p.m. contest versus No. 5 Western Michigan at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio . . . The Cardinals earned the tournament's top seed and a double bye in the double elimination event by capturing the league's regular season title.

2012 MAC Softball Tournament Schedule:

   Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Game 1     No. 5 Western Michigan 8 def. No. 8 Toledo 0 (6)
Game 2     No. 6 Central Michigan 2 def. No. 7 Kent State 1
Game 3     No. 5 Western Michigan 7 def. No. 4 Ohio 2
Game 4     No. 6 Central Michigan vs. No. 3 Bowling Green (15-7 MAC) - 7:30 p.m.

   Thursday, May 10, 2012
Game 5     No. 7 Kent State vs. No. 4 Ohio - 11 a.m.
Game 6     No. 8 Toledo vs. Game 4 Loser - 1:30 p.m.  
Game 7     No. 5 Western Michigan vs. No. 1 Ball State (17-3 MAC) - 5 p.m.
Game 8     Game 4 Winner vs. No. 2 Miami (16-6 MAC) - 7:30 p.m.

   Friday, May 11, 2012
Game 9      Game 6 Winner vs. Game 7 Loser - 11 a.m.
Game 10    Game 5 Winner vs. Game 8 Loser - 1:30 p.m.
Game 11    Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner - 5 p.m.
Game 12    Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner - 7:30 p.m.

   Saturday, May 12, 2012
Game 13    Game 12 Winner vs. Game 11 Loser (Semifinal) - 11 a.m.
Game 14    Game 11 Winner vs. Game 13 Winner (Championship) - 1:30 p.m.
Game 15    Replay Game 14 - If Necessary - 4 p.m.

►FOLLOW LIVE: Ball State fans can follow the Cardinals throughout the 2012 Mid-American Conference Tournament with live stats at the link above . . . Fans can also get half-inning updates by following the team on Twitter @BallStSoftball.

►IN THE MAC TOURNAMENT: The Ball State softball team owns a 16-16 all-time record in MAC Tournament action, including an 8-6 record under Craig Nicholson . . . BSU's last tournament title came in 2010 when the Cardinals went 4-0 in the event.

►TAKING THE TITLE: The Ball State softball team secured its third MAC regular season title in four years with a 17-3 overall league record . . . The title came down to the team's last series in which it battled head-to-head versus Bowling Green for the crown . . . Needing one win over the Falcons, the Cardinals wasted little time with a 6-0 shutout victory Saturday . . . BSU would then end the regular season with an 8-5 senior day win Sunday over BGSU, giving them a 2.5 game advantage in the final league standings . . . Miami (16-6) finished second in the MAC overall standings, followed by Bowling Green (15-7).

►CARDINALS ALL-TIME: After posting a perfect 4-0 record in the final weekend of the regular season, the Ball State softball program upped its all-time record to 816-896-4 (.477) in 37-plus seasons of play . . . Established as a varsity program in 1975, Ball State has won three Mid-American Conference regular season titles (2009, 2010 and 2012), two MAC Tournament championships (1998 and 2010) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament twice (1998 and 2010).

►HEAD COACH CRAIG NICHOLSON: The fastest coach in program history to eclipse the 100-win mark, Craig Nicholson picked up his 900th collegiate coaching victory versus Northern Colorado (March 11) . . . In his sixth season as Ball State's head coach, Nicholson has amassed a 203-143 (.587) record at BSU, including a 39-13 record so far in 2012 . . . Under his guidance, the program won its first-ever Mid-American Conference regular season championship in 2009 with the best league record in program history (18-3) and repeated the feat in 2010 . . . The 2010 squad, which set program records for wins in a season (43) and winning percentage in a season (.729), also captured just the second MAC Tournament title in program history to advance to the NCAA Tournament . . . The Cardinals added a third regular season crown this season by virtue of its 17-3 league mark . . . Nicholson owns a 926-233 (.799) career coaching record including his 723-90 mark in 11 years at Central Arizona.

►THE FIRST TO 20: The first team from the Mid-American Conference to reach both 20 and 30 wins this season, the Cardinals enter the week with a league-best 39-13 (.750) overall record and finished first in the MAC with a 17-3 (.850) conference mark . . . BSU entered the week ranked 21st in the nation among the 289 NCAA Division I programs with a .750 winning percentage.

►SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: The Cardinals enter the MAC Tournament with a 39-13 (17-3 MAC) overall record after finishing the regular season with seven consecutive wins . . . Senior catcher/designated player Amanda Montalto leads the league and ranks 51st nationally with a .403 batting average, while senior shortstop Alison Mercado is second on the squad with a .402 average . . . As a team, the Cardinals are first in the league and eighth nationally with a .326 batting average, including a MAC single-season record 69 home runs . . . In the circle, senior right-hander Audrey Workman has a 2.93 ERA, a 16-10 record and 131 strikeouts over 176.2 innings of work, while classmate Kim Mazzapica is 23-3 with a 3.56 ERA and 78 strikeouts over 169.1 innings . . . As a staff, the Cardinals enter the week with a 3.23 ERA, while limiting opposing hitters to a .259 batting average and just 160 earned runs in 347.0 innings of work . . . Combined, BSU has out-scored its opponents 362-203 this season.

►GOING, GOING, GONE: In addition to leading the Mid-American Conference, the Cardinals entered the week ranked ninth in the nation with a 1.33 home runs-per-game average . . . The Cardinals 69 long balls this season are already 25 better than the previous BSU single-season record of 44 set last year and 10 better than the previous MAC record of 59 set by the 2010 Kent State team . . . Sophomore left fielder Jennifer Gilbert paces the MAC with 18 home runs this year, which ranked her 15th nationally based on her 0.35 per-game average . . . Montalto is second in the MAC with 15 home runs and 35th nationally at 0.29 long balls per game.

►DOUBLING UP: As impressive as the home run total is, the Cardinals are even better when it comes to two-base hits, entering the week ranked second in the nation with a 1.87 doubles per game average . . . Jennifer Gilbert and Amanda Montalto enter the MAC Tournament ranked first in the MAC and ninth nationally with identical 0.35 doubles-per-game averages . . . BSU's 97 doubles this season are a school record, four better than the previous standard of 93 set in 2010.

►DON'T FORGET THE TRIPLES: The Cardinals also broke into the top 15 nationally in triples per game, ranking 12th at 0.31 . . . Jennifer Gilbert is tied for the MAC lead and ranks 25th in the country with four triples, while Amanda Montalto is second on the squad and fourth in the MAC with three triples.

►THE TRIFECTA: The Ball State offense entered the week as the only team in the nation to rank in the top 15 in doubles (second), triples (12th) and home runs (ninth) per game . . . BSU is also fifth in scoring offense (6.96), sixth in slugging percentage (.558) and eighth in batting average (.326).

►MONTALTO IN THE RANKINGS: Amanda Montalto enters the weekend as one of the greatest sluggers in MAC history . . . Last weekend, Montalto became the league's all-time leader in both doubles (56) and walks (106) . . . Her 38 career home runs are third in MAC annals, while her 151 RBI trail only Akron's Kelli Metzger (1996-99) who tallied 167 during her career.

►"O CANADA": For the past three years, sophomore outfielder Jennifer Gilbert has played in numerous international competitions as part of the Canadian National Team Program . . . This past December, Gilbert (who was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) helped guide the Canadian Junior Women's National Team to a fifth-place showing at the ISF IX Junior Women's World Championship in Cape Town, South Africa (Dec. 6-17) . . . In the event, Gilbert hit .411 with 14 hits in 34 at bats, including a grand slam . . . Gilbert also played for the 2010 Canadian Junior Women's National Team and the 2009 Canadian Women's U16 National Team.

►SCORING MACHINE: Jennifer Gilbert enters the week ranked first in the MAC with 62 runs scored, 11 more than the next closest player in teammate Amanda Montalto . . . Only 27 players in the nation average over a run per game, with Gilbert ranking fifth among them at 1.19 . . . Gilbert is also the league's RBI leader at 52 and entered the week ranked 31st nationally at 1.00 RBI per game . . . Factoring out 18 RBI for her 18 home runs (so the runs are not counted twice), Gilbert has been directly responsible for 96 of BSU's 362 runs this season, which equates to 26.5 percent of Ball State's scoring offense.

►THE STREAK IS BACK ON: Freshman designated player/outfielder Hanne Stuedemann saw her streak of reaching base safely snapped at 40 games after failing to reach base in last Friday's second game versus Toledo . . . However, Stuedemann rebounded to reach base in both games versus Bowling Green to start a new streak . . . Stuedemann's school-record streak of 40 games included reaching base on a hit in 30 games, by a walk eight times and being hit by a pitch twice.

►WALK THIS WAY: In addition to being the league's top hitting team, the Cardinals have also shown tremendous patience at the plate with a league-leading 200 walks . . . Entering the week, Miami was second in the league with 170 walks . . . Amanda Montalto ranks fourth in the MAC with 33 free passes, while sophomore first baseman Taylor Rager is sixth (29), Hanne Stuedemann is eighth (25) and sophomore third baseman Audrey Bickel is ninth (24).

►MAZZAPICA TOPS THE MAC: Ball State senior right-hander Kim Mazzapica enters the weekend ranked second in the MAC with 23 wins this season . . . Her 23-3 overall record and .884 winning percentage both lead the league, and she is the only regular starter with an unblemished conference record at 11-0 . . . In addition to leading the league, Mazzapica's .884 winning percentage is currently a MAC single-season record.

►CARDINALS SHOWING THE GLOVE: With BSU ranking in the top 10 nationally in nearly every offensive category, it's easy to forget about the Cardinals' top-notch defense . . . BSU entered the week ranked 31st among the 289 NCAA Division I teams with a 0.970 fielding percentage . . . The Cardinals have also turned a MAC-best 31 double plays and rank first in the nation with a 0.60 double plays-per-game average.

►NO PRESSURE: With the 2012 Mid-American Conference title on the line last weekend, the Cardinals continued their offensive dominance by posting a .393 team batting average over the final four game . . . Junior center fielder Amanda Carpenter led the charge with a .615 average, collecting eight hits in 13 at bats . . . Audrey Bickel followed with a .533 average, tallying eight hits, including a double and a home run . . . Hanne Stuedemann drove in a team-high nine RBI, while hitting .357 with two doubles and a home run.

►IN A PINCH: Sophomore infielder Lauren Schroeder made the most of her two pinch hit appearances at Buffalo, collecting her first two career home runs . . . Schroeder's first blast was a three-run, game-winning shot with two outs in the sixth inning Saturday, which also happened to be her 20th birthday . . . On Sunday, she belted a two-run blast in the fourth to give BSU a 6-0 edge.

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