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Softball Opens MAC Tournament With 3-1 Loss To WMU

   AKRON, Ohio - - The top seeded Ball State softball team opened play in the 2012 Mid-American Conference Tournament with a 3-1 loss to No. 5 seed Western Michigan Thursday evening at Firestone Stadium.

   With the loss, the Cardinals (39-14) will play No. 3 seed Bowling Green at 11 a.m. Friday morning. Western Michigan, which picks up its third win of the tournament and improves to 28-23 on the year, advances to play the winner of No. 2 Miami vs. No. 6 Central Michigan at 5 p.m. Friday.

   Freshman designated player Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) gave the Cardinals a spark in the top of the seventh, blasting her seventh home run of the season to cut WMU's lead to 3-1. Ball State would go on to load the bases with one out, but WMU pitcher Meredith Whitney struck out the next two batters to lock down the win for the Broncos.

   Ball State finished the game with four hits, including singles from sophomore left fielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney), sophomore third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) and junior center fielder Amanda Carpenter (Santee, Calif./Santana).

   In improving to 19-12 on the year, Whitney limited the Cardinals to one run on four hits, while striking out 13 batters.

   Western Michigan scored its first two runs in the top of the first thanks to a two-run double from Gracie Barstad. The Broncos would add a third run in the top of the second on a leadoff homer from Elisha Handshoe.

   Senior pitcher Audrey Workman (Wickenburg, Ariz./Yavapai) would keep the WMU offense in check from there, holding them to just two hits over the final five innings. In all, Workman allowed three runs on five hits while striking out four batters.

   Ball State would add its NCAA-leading 32nd double play of the season to end the third inning, while a spectacular diving grab from senior shortstop Alison Mercado (Perris, Calif./Arizona Western College) ended the sixth.
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