LOUISVILLE, Ky. - - Behind a strong pitching performance from freshman Nicole Steinbach, the Ball State (12-10) softball team ended its first day at the Louisville Classic with a 3-1 win over No. 24 North Carolina Saturday afternoon at Ulmer Stadium.
In picking up her fifth win of the season, Steinbach (5-7) limited the UNC offense to six hits and one earned run over seven innings of work. She also struck out three batters while surrendering just one walk. Steinbach also made a great snag on comebacker for the game's final out.
On offense, sophomore second baseman Taylor Cox carried over her hot hitting from the morning's game versus Wisconsin, going 2-for-4 against the Tar Heels with one RBI and one run scored. Cox finished the day 5-for-9 with three runs scored and an RBI
Cox and junior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert each tallied RBI doubles for the Cardinals to help BSU run its Mid-American Conference leading double total to 44 on the season.
Cox opened the game by reaching base in a bunt single to the catcher and advanced to second on a two-out walk to junior first baseman Taylor Rager. Senior center fielder Amanda Carpenter followed with a RBI single to left field giving Ball State a 1-0 edge.
Ball State extended its lead to 2-0 in the top of the second as senior catcher Sadie Robertson battled to draw a nine-pitch walk and eventually came around to score on Cox's double to left field.
The Cardinals added an insurance run in the top of the fifth on Gilbert's two-out RBI double to center field. Sophomore right fielder Loren Cihlar tallied a one-out single to the pitcher and advanced to second on a walk to sophomore designated player Hanne Stuedemann. Gilbert followed with her RBI hit to give Ball State a 3-0 advantage.
North Carolina scored its lone run of the game in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out RBI groundout from pinch hitter Lauren Walker.
In the seventh, Steinbach would strikeout the first batter she faced, while forcing a grounder to the shortstop for the inning's second out. After a single from Kristen Brown put the tying run at the plate, Steinbach picked off a line drive comebacker from Haleigh Dickey to end the game.
Lori Spingola suffered the pitching loss for UNC, falling to 11-7 on the year by allowing five hits and three runs over 7.0 innings. She would strikeout seven Cardinals, while issuing four walks.
The Ball State softball team continues play in the Louisville Classic Sunday afternoon with a scheduled 3 p.m. first pitch versus Iowa which enters the game with a 17-6 record and received votes in both NCAA Division I softball polls this week.