► THIS WEEKEND IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL: After completing a six-game homestand with an 11-2 (5 inn.) win over Butler Tuesday, the Ball State softball team returns to the road this weekend for a Friday doubleheader at Akron (1 p.m.) and single games at Ohio Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) ... The Cardinals’ Wednesday twin bill at Purdue was rained out.
► LISTEN LIVE: Ball State Sports Link Radio and WCRD 91.3 FM continues its coverage of Ball State softball this weekend with Torey Fox calling the action live from Akron and Ohio ... 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 weekend 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
► THINK PINK: The Ball State softball team will host its annual Think Pink game next Saturday (April 20) when Miami comes to the BSU Softball Complex for a 2 p.m. first pitch ... In support of cancer awareness, the Cardinals will wear special pink jerseys for the game, which will then be auctioned off with the proceeds going to The Little Red Door Cancer Agency ... Other auction items include gift cards from local businesses, as well as a Breast Cancer Awareness Luggage Set ... Fans can start their bidding now by visiting http://ballstatesports.com/softball and clicking on the link to the “Think Pink Auction”.
► SL TV: In addition to being the team’s Think Pink game, the April 20 showdown with Miami will be the first of two games televised by Ball State Sports Link this season ... The SL crew will also cover the Sunday, April 21 game versus the RedHawks ... Indiana Comcast 81 will carry Saturday’s game live statewide, while both games will also be streamed for FREE on BallStateSports.com.
► CARDINALS ALL-TIME: With its 11-2 (5 inn.) win over Butler Tuesday, the Ball State softball program upped its all-time record to 841-909-4 (.481) 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 228-156 (.594) 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 951-246 (.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 weekend with a 24-11 overall record and an 8-0 MAC mark ... Jennifer Gilbert leads the Cardinals at the plate with a .491 (55-for-112) batting average, 15 home runs, 46 RBI and 39 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 .327 batting average and rank third in the league with a 2.81 team ERA ... BSU’s opponents are batting a combined .251 and have a 6.49 ERA in the circle.
► RPI UPDATE: On the strength of its 23-11 overall record entering the week, the Ball State softball team was ranked 57th in the latest NCAA RPI rankings ... In the first RPI rankings released March 24th, 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 second at 111 ... The Cardinals are also the second-best team in the state of Indiana, trailing only Notre Dame (51st).
► SCOUTING THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS
AKRON - The Zips enter the weekend with a 16-17 overall record, including a 3-5 mark in MAC play ... Akron opened the week by sweeping a Tuesday doubleheader at Cleveland State by scores of 3-2 and 5-4 ... Akron enters Friday’s twin bill versus Ball State with a .254 team batting average led by Shawna Hochstetler’s .340 mark ... Hochstetler also leads the team in doubles (9) and runs scored (22) ... Akron boasts a 3.75 team ERA in the circle, with Erin Seiler leading the squad at 3.17 ... Seiler also owns a 10-11 overall record, 126 strikeouts and has thrown 153.1 of the team’s 220.2 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 weekend with a 19-16 overall record, including a 4-4 mark in MAC play ... Ohio opened the week by dropping both ends of a doubleheader at Ohio State by scores of 4-2 and 6-1 ... Ohio will host Miami for a Friday twin bill before the Cardinals come calling Saturday and Sunday... As a team, Ohio enters the week with a .258 batting average led by Lauren Gellerman’s mark of .422 ... Gellerman leads the team with 44 RBI, 32 runs scored and 17 home runs ... Ohio’s 52 team home runs are nine better than Ball State’s total of 43 ... In the circle, Ohio’s pitchers have a combined 3.93 ERA led by Savannah Jo Dorsey at 3.49 ... Dorsey also has a 9-6 record and 110 strikeouts over 96.1 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: Junior left fielder Taylor Rager was named the Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week Tuesday, marking the first time this season and second time in her career she has been honored ... In addition, Rager was named the College Sports Madness Mid-American Conference Softball Player of the Week for her efforts in guiding BSU to a 5-1 record last week ... Overall, the Cardinals have had at least one MAC weekly award winner in each of its eight 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 pair of two-run blasts in Tuesday’s win over Butler, Gilbert has tallied 15 home runs this season to raise her career total to 48 which is tied for second in Mid-American Conference history with Jenny Scherer (2007-10 for Eastern Michigan) ... Kelli Metzger (1996-99 for Akron) holds the league’s all-time home run record at 57.
► MORE ON THE LONG BALL: With her 15 home runs this season, Gilbert is three shy of breaking the program’s single-season record which she set last season at 18 ... In addition, Gilbert is the first player in program history to rack up double-digit home runs in three seasons over her career, having belted 15 long balls as a freshman as well.
► 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 has tallied a league-best 46 RBI this season to raise her career total to 161 ... Gilbert’s total is second in MAC history, trailing only Kelli Metzger’s 167 career RBI.
► FROM THE NCAA STATS FRONT: In addition to entering the week ranked third among all NCAA Division I players with her .486 batting average, Jennifer Gilbert was 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 ranked 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 entering the week ... In BSU’s eight conference games, Rager has slugged 15 hits which includes 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 entered 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 50-game regular season schedule with 100 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 3.45 ERA in 44.2 innings which includes six starts and eight 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 entered 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.
► MORE FROM THE NCAA STAT ARCHIVES: Amanda Carpenter’s 47 career doubles entering the week ranked her sixth among all active NCAA Division I players, while the total is 31st among all players across all divisions ... Carpenter also ranked 17th in at bats (642), 29th in hits (211), 29th in RBI (137) and 35th in runs scored (35) among all active NCAA Division I players ... Jennifer Gilbert was ranked 11th in doubles (44), 13th in home runs (46), 14th in slugging percentage (.769), 15th in RBI (157) and 24th in runs scored (142) among all NCAA Division I players.
► 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.