MUNCIE, Ind. - - For the third consecutive week, and fourth time this season, the Ball State softball team has swept the Mid-American Conference West Division weekly awards with junior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert earning player of the week and freshman Nicole Steinbach taking her third straight pitcher of the week award.
In addition to earning her third MAC West Division Player of the Week honor this season, Gilbert was also named the Madness Mid-American Conference Softball Player of the Week, as awarded by CollegeSportsMadness.com, after her solid performance last weekend. It is the second time this season Gilbert has been named the Madness MAC Player of the Week.
In helping guide the Cardinals to a perfect 4-0 start in MAC play this season, Gilbert led the Ball State offense with a .600 (9-for-15) batting average last week and tallied a 1.467 slugging percentage in doubleheader sweeps of Bowling Green (March 29) and Toledo (March 30).
In last Saturday’s twinbill at Toledo, Gilbert put together one of the most impressive days of her storied career by combining for four home runs and a double in a sweep of the Rockets. In the first game at Toledo, Gilbert went 4-for-5 from the plate with two home runs, a double and a single. She also tallied four RBI and scored three runs in the contest. In the second game, Gilbert went 2-for-3 with two home runs, an intentional walk, three RBI and three runs scored. Gilbert would eventually come around to score what proved to be the game-winning run on the intentional walk which loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh inning
Gilbert, who is now a seven-time career MAC Player of the Week award winner and a four-time career Madness MAC Softball Player of the Week, opened league play with a 3-for-4 effort in the first game of the doubleheader at Bowling Green, while also scoring a run. Unfortunately, she saw her season-best 10-game hitting streak snapped in the second game of the twinbill at BGSU.
With her four home runs at Toledo, Gilbert raised her season total to 12 and her career total to 45. Her 45 career home runs are a Ball State career record and rank her third in Mid-American Conference history.
Steinbach, who is now a four-time career MAC Pitcher of the Week honoree, opened MAC play last Friday by outdueling one of the top pitchers in the league in BGSU’s Paris Imholz in the first game of a doubleheader. In her MAC debut, Steinbach limited the Falcons to just one hit and an unearned run over seven innings of work. BGSU’s lone hit was a two-out triple in the fifth inning. Steinbach also struck out six batters in the contest, while not issuing a single free pass.
In some tough, blustery conditions at Toledo the following day, Steinbach picked up her second career MAC victory by limiting Toledo to eight hits and four earned runs in another complete game effort. She would strike out five more batters in the game, while issuing just one walk. Over the two games, Steinbach limited opposing batters to a .167 batting average.
So far this season, the Cardinals have claimed six MAC West Division Player of the Week awards and five MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week honors. Ball State has had at least one award winner in each of the seven weeks it has played, while sweeping the honors four times.The Ball State softball team returns to action Wednesday, when it travels up I-69 for a non-conference doubleheader at IPFW which is scheduled for a 3 p.m. first pitch. Ball State will then host its first home games of the 2013 season Friday, when Northern Illinois visits the BSU Softball Complex for a 1 p.m. MAC twinbill.