BOCA RATON, Fla. - - In a battle of two of the nations' top offenses, the Ball State (11-9) softball team suffered a hard-fought 8-7 loss to Kansas (17-5) in its final game of the FAU Invitational hosted by Florida Atlantic Saturday evening.
Overall, the Cardinals slugged 13 hits in the game, including three home runs and three doubles to raise their season batting average to .315. The Jayhawks, which entered the game batting .400 as a team, also tallied 13 hits with four home runs and nine singles.
Senior center fielder Amanda Carpenter led the Cardinals at the plate, going 4-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored. Carpenter is currently second in program history with 42 career doubles, including nine so far this year.
Junior first baseman Taylor Rager was 2-for-2 on the day with a home run and two walks. Also going yard for the Cardinals were sophomore designated player Hanne Stuedemann and senior catcher Sadie Robertson.
Overall, the Ball State offense has smashed 21 home runs and 42 doubles so far this season, well ahead of last season's pace in which BSU tallied Mid-American Conference records for home runs (70) and doubles (100).
After holding the Jayhawks off the board in the top of the first, the Cardinals used a pair of solo home runs from Stuedemann and Rager to claim an early 2-0 lead after one inning.
Kansas cut the advantage in half in the top of the second thanks to a leadoff walk from Rosie Hugo and a two-out RBI single from Ashley Newman.
The Jayhawks would pull ahead 4-2 in the top of the third after three straight one out home runs from Mariah Montgomery, Hugo and Rosie Hull.
Ball State responded with three runs of its own in the bottom of the third thanks to a three-run blast from Robertson which gave BSU a 5-4 edge. Rager drew a walk to open the inning, and was replaced by freshman pinch runner Briana Evans. Carpenter followed with a double to set up Robertson's three-run shot two batters later.
The lead was short-lived however, as a leadoff walk and a throwing error on a stolen base attempt allowed Newman to tie the score in the top of the fourth. A single, a BSU error and a sacrifice bunt would help Kansas put runners at second and third with one out, while a RBI single from Montgomery allowed the Jayhawks to reclaim the lead at 6-5.
Ball State answered by loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the frame. Rager, who drew a leadoff walk, would eventually cross the plate to tie the score at 6-6 on a sacrifice fly from freshman shortstop Selena Reyna, who went 2-for-3 on the day with a double.
The Cardinals then used a two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth to pull ahead 7-6. Junior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert singled through the right side to start the rally, while Rager followed with a single up the middle to put runners at first and second. Carpenter then launched a double off the left-center field wall to bring home Gilbert.
Unfortunately, a solo home run from Montgomery tied the game at 7-7 in the sixth.
In the seventh, the Jayhawks capitalized on a one-out BSU fielding error and a RBI single from Hull to post the eventual game-winning run.
Despite a solid performance against the hot-hitting Jayhawks, Nicole Steinbach (4-6) suffered the pitching loss for the Cardinals by yielding five runs (three earned) and seven hits over 4.2 innings of work.
Kelsey Schifferdecker started the game for Ball State in the circle and allowed three runs on six hits over 2.1 innings.
Alex Jones (4-0) picked up the win for Kansas, retiring the final six Ball State batters of the game, including four strikeouts.
Ball State finished its second tournament at the FAU Softball Stadium with a 3-1 record and will return to action next Saturday (March 16) when it opens play in the Louisville Classic versus Wisconsin (10 a.m.) and North Carolina (3 p.m.).