► THIS WEEK IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL: The Ball State softball team closes its first homestand of the 2013 season Tuesday with a scheduled 4 p.m. first pitch versus Butler ... The Cardinals will then start a seven-game road swing with a Wednesday doubleheader at Purdue ... BSU will also play at twin bill at Akron on Friday (1 p.m.) and single games at Ohio Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).
► LISTEN LIVE: Ball State Sports Link Radio and WCRD 91.3 FM continues its coverage of Ball State softball this week with all seven games scheduled to be carried live by Torey Fox and/or Andy Wright ... To listen online for FREE, visit http://ballstatesports.com/liveevents and click on the link when the event goes live.
► FOLLOW LIVE: Ball State fans can follow the Cardinals this week with live stats by visiting: http://ballstatesports.com/livestats ... Fans can also get regular updates by following the team on Twitter: @BallStSoftball and Facebook: BallStateSoftball
► CARDINALS ALL-TIME: After posting a 5-1 record last week, the Ball State softball program upped its all-time record to 840-909-4 (.480) in 38-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 and 200-win marks, Craig Nicholson picked up his 950th collegiate coaching victory with last Sunday’s 10-4 win over Western Michigan (April 7) ... In his seventh season as Ball State’s head coach, Nicholson has amassed a 227-156 (.593) record at BSU, including a 90-44 (.672) ledger in MAC action ... 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 at 18-3 and repeated the feat in 2010 with a 17-5 league mark ... 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 MAC regular season crown in 2012 by virtue of its 17-3 league mark ... Nicholson owns a 950-246 (.794) career coaching record including his 723-90 mark in 11 years at Central Arizona.
► SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: Picked as the preseason favorite to win both the 2013 Mid-American Conference West Division title and the 2013 MAC Tournament as voted on by the league’s 12 head coaches, the Cardinals enter the week with a 23-11 overall record and an 8-0 MAC mark ... Jennifer Gilbert leads the Cardinals at the plate with a .486 (53-for-109) batting average, 13 home runs, 42 RBI and 37 runs scored ... In the circle, freshman Nicole Steinbach has thrown four of complete game shutouts, owns a team-best 2.19 ERA and is limiting opposing batters to a .234 average ... As a team, the Cardinals own a MAC-best .324 batting average and a 2.81 ERA ... BSU’s opponents are batting a combined .252 and have a 6.26 ERA in the circle.
► RPI UPDATE: On the strength of its 23-11 overall record, the Ball State softball team enters the week ranked 57th in the latest NCAA RPI rankings ... In the first RPI rankings released March 24, the Cardinals were listed 85th ... Last week, BSU was 72nd ... Ball State is the top-ranked team in the Mid-American Conference with Kent State in second at 111 ... The Cardinals are also the second-best team in the state of Indiana, trailing only Notre Dame which is 51st.
► SCOUTING THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS
BUTLER - The Bulldogs enter the week with a 12-17 overall record after splitting a two-game weekend series at George Washington ... Butler won the first game 1-0, before dropping the second 4-1 ... The Bulldogs were also swept by Miami in a midweek doubleheader by scores of 5-4 and 6-2 ... Butler enters the week with a .248 team batting average, led by Kristen Boros at .315 ... Boros also paces the squad in runs (11), RBI (17), doubles (7) and home runs (4) ... The Bulldogs have a 4.44 team ERA in the circle, led by Jenny Esparza’s team-best 1.69 ERA ... Esparza, who has a 3-2 record over 11 appearances, is third on the team in innings thrown (48.0), but has a team-best 73 strikeouts ... Ball State holds a 16-2 edge in the all-time series after the teams split a March 25, 2008 doubleheader at the BSU Softball Complex ... The Cardinals won the first game 6-2 while Butler took the second by a score of 4-3 in eight innings.
PURDUE - The Boilermakers enter the week with a 15-22 overall record after losing two of three games versus Michigan State last weekend ... MSU took the first and third games by scores of 3-2 and 1-0, respectively, while Purdue won the second game 7-2 ... The Boilermakers will play a Tuesday game at Loyola-Chicago before hosting the Cardinals Wednesday ... Purdue enters the week with a .269 team batting average led by Andie Varsho’s .432 mark ... Varsho also leads the team in RBI (24) and is third on the squad in runs scored (21) ... In the circle, Purdue boasts a 3.01 team ERA with Lilly Fecho pacing the team’s regular starters with a 2.78 ERA ... Over a team-high 111.2 innings, Fecho has posted a 6-12 record with 75 strikeouts ... Purdue holds a 19-9 edge in the all-time series after the teams split a April 12 doubleheader last season ... BSU won the first game 9-7 before dropping the second 8-6.
AKRON - The Zips enter the week with a 14-17 overall record, including a 3-5 mark in MAC play after dropping both ends of a Friday doubleheader at Bowling Green (3-0 / 2-0) and splitting a two-day series at Toledo with a 15-5 (6 inn.) win Saturday followed by a 6-2 (8 inn.) loss Sunday ... Akron will play a Tuesday twin bill at Cleveland State before hosting the Cardinals Friday ... Akron enters the week with a .252 team batting average led by Shawna Hochstetler’s .354 mark ... Hochstetler has also leads the team in doubles (9) and runs scored (21) ... Akron boasts a 2.95 team ERA in the circle, with Erin Seiler leading the squad at 2.50 ... Seiler also owns a 9-11 overall record, 121 strikeouts and has thrown 145.1 of the team’s 206.2 total innings ... Ball State holds a 25-21 advantage in the all-time series versus Akron, including a pair of wins last season by scores of 7-4 on April 7 and 11-0 (5) on April 8, 2012.
OHIO - The Bobcats enter the week with a 19-14 overall record, including a 4-4 mark in MAC play after splitting a Friday doubleheader at Toledo (3-4 / 6-0) and a two-day series at Bowling Green with a 5-1 Saturday win and a 3-2 Sunday loss ... Ohio is scheduled to play doubleheaders versus Ohio State (April 9) and Miami (April 12) before hosting Ball State Saturday and Sunday ... As a team, Ohio enters the week with a .264 batting average led by Lauren Gellerman’s mark of .410 ... Gellerman leads the team with 41 RBI and 29 runs scored, while her 14 home runs at second on the squad ... Ohio’s 49 team home runs are 11 better than Ball State’s total of 38 ... In the circle, Ohio’s pitchers have a combined 3.85 ERA led by Laruen McClary at 3.41 ... McClary also has an 8-7 record and 71 strikeouts over 90.1 innings of work ... Ball State holds a 37-34 edge in the all-time series after the team’s split an April 6, 2012 doubleheader at the BSU Softball Complex ... BSU won the first game 8-5, before dropping the second 7-6
► WEEKLY AWARD WINNERS: This week’s awards are set to be released Tuesday ... Last week, freshman pitcher Nicole Steinbach was named the MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week for the third consecutive week, while junior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert picked up her third MAC West Division Player of the Week honor this season ... Steinbach has claimed the division’s top weekly pitching honor four times so far this season, while Gilbert is a seven-time career MAC West Division Player of the Week award winner ... The Cardinals have had at least one MAC weekly award winner in each of its seven weekends of play this season, while sweeping the award in the first, fifth, sixth and seventh weeks.
► RECORD BREAKER: With a two-run blast over the right-center field wall in the fourth inning of the nightcap at Florida International (March 5), Jennifer Gilbert became the program’s career home run leader ... Including a two-run home run in BSU’s 9-2 win in game two of last Friday’s doubleheader versus Northern Illinois, Gilbert has blasted 13 home runs this season to raise her career total to 46 which ranks third in Mid-American Conference history ... Kelli Metzger (1996-99 for Akron) holds the league’s all-time home run record at 57, followed by Jenny Scherer (2007-10 for Eastern Michigan) at 48.
► RECORD BREAKER PART 2: With a two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the fourth inning in Ball State’s 13-0 (5) win over Western Michigan last Saturday, Jennifer Gilbert became the program’s all-time career RBI leader ... Gilbert drove in three more runs in BSU’s 10-4 win over the Broncos’ Sunday, raising her career total to 157 ... Gilbert’s total is second in MAC history, trailing only Kelli Metzger’s career total of 167.
► FROM THE NCAA STATS FRONT: In addition to ranking third among all NCAA Division I players with her .486 batting average, Jennifer Gilbert is one of only five players in the country to rank in the top 25 nationally in runs per game (19th at 1.09) and RBI per game (13th at 1.24) ... Gilbert also ranks sixth in slugging percentage (0.936) and 14th in home runs per game (0.38).
► RAGER CLIMBING THE CHARTS TOO: Thanks to the help of her team-leading .556 batting average in Mid-American Conference play, junior first baseman Taylor Rager has climbed to second in the league and 32nd nationally with her .429 season batting average ... In BSU’s eight conference games, Rager has slugged 15 hits which include four home runs and two doubles ... She has also drawn four walks and leads the squad with a .613 on base percentage in league-only games.
► DOUBLING UP: Led by senior center fielder Amanda Carpenter’s MAC-best 14 doubles this season, the Ball State offense paces the MAC with 70 doubles so far in 2013 ... Carpenter is currently second in program history with 47 career doubles and enters the week ranked fifth nationally with her 0.42 doubles-per-game average ... Jennifer Gilbert, who has 10 doubles so far this season, is third on BSU’s career doubles list at 44 ... The Cardinals, who collected a Ball State and MAC single-season record 100 doubles in 2012, are on pace to finish their 53-game regular season schedule with 110 doubles.
► DOUBLING UP PART 2: The Ball State defense has also picked up where it left off in 2012, turning 21 double plays so far this season ... Taylor Rager has had a hand in 19 of the twin killings, moving her into the top spot in program history with 48 career double plays turned ... Sophomore second baseman Taylor Cox has been involved in 12 of the twin killings this season, raising her career total to 35 which is second in program history ... BSU enters the week ranked fourth in the nation with a 0.62 average this season, while its 21 double plays turned are tied for seventh ... Last season, the Ball State defense led the nation with both 33 double plays turned and a 0.60 double plays-per-game average
► IN THE CIRCLE: Ball State’s pitching staff entered the week ranked third in the Mid-American Conference with a 2.81 team ERA, led by freshmen Nicole Steinbach (2.19) and Kelsey Schifferdecker (3.42) ... From the pen, redshirt junior Lauren Williamson has a perfect 0.00 ERA over 2.0 innings of work, while redshirt junior Audra Sanders owns a 3.53 ERA in 43.2 innings which includes six starts and seven relief appearances, as well as a complete game shutout versus Florida A&M (March 8).
► MORE ON STEINBACH: Ball State’s ace in the circle, Nicole Steinbach has been very impressive in her debut season have already earned four MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week honors ... In her 21 appearances this season, Steinbach has held teams to four-or-less hits 10 times and surrendered two-or-less earned runs 15 times ... She recorded a career-best 10 strikeouts versus Creighton (Feb. 22) and has tallied five-or-more Ks in an appearance eight times ... Over 108.2 innings of work, Steinbach is limiting opposing batters to a .234 average and recorded 79 strikeouts, both team-bests ... In addition, her four complete game shutouts are tied for first among all MAC pitchers.
► THE NATIONAL RANKINGS: The Ball State offense enters the week ranked 19th in the nation with its MAC leading .324 team batting average, while its 2.06 doubles-per-game average is first nationally ... The Cardinals offense also ranks in the top 25 nationally in scoring (7.03/sixth) and slugging percentage (.522/12th) ... Complete national rankings for the 2013 Ball State squad can be found on page 15 of this release.
► OVER THE LAST FOUR YEARS IN THE MAC: Over the past four seasons, Ball State softball has proven to be one of the MAC’s premier programs by racking up a league-best 73-19 (.793) conference record during the span ... Miami is second on the list at 62-34 (.646) followed by Kent State at 59-34 (.634) ... Akron’s 37-59 (.385) record is 10th during that span, while Ohio’s 56-38 (.596) mark is fourth.