AKRON, Ohio - - Ball State softball junior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert blasted three home runs and drove in eight RBI to become the Mid-American Conference’s career RBI leader in a sweep of Akron Friday afternoon at Lee R Jackson Field.
Gilbert tallied her first home run and drove in a pair of RBI in Ball State’s 5-0 opening game victory, while blasting two long balls, including an eighth-inning grand slam, and adding six RBI in the Cardinals’ 11-6 (8 inn.) nightcap victory. Gilbert finished the day 6-for-8 and added a walk, while scoring four runs.
With her eight RBI on the day, Gilbert upped her career total to 169 which moves her past Kelli Metzger’s (Akron: 1996-99) total of 167 for the MAC career RBI record.
Gilbert also tied her own Ball State single-season home run record at 18, while upping her career total to 51 which is second in MAC history.
With the pair of wins, the Cardinals improve to 26-11 on the season and remain perfect in Mid-American Conference action at 10-0. The Zips drop to 16-19 (3-7 MAC) with the two losses.
In the circle, freshman pitcher Nicole Steinbach earned the win in both games, throwing a complete game shutout in the first, while pitching the final 2.2 innings in the second. She improves to 11-7 with the wins, while dropping her team-leading ERA to 2.01 on the season.
Over the two appearances, Steinbach held Akron to just three hits and no earned runs. She struck out seven total batters, while issuing just three walks.
The Ball State softball team returns to action Saturday, when it travels to Ohio for a 2 p.m. first pitch which will be broadcast live by Ball State Sports Link Radio.
GAME 1 RECAP: Ball State 5 –Akron 0
The day’s opening game remained scoreless until the top of the third inning when the Cardinals struck for three two-out runs.
Sophomore right fielder Hanne Stuedemann started the two-out rally with a single to center field, while Gilbert followed with her first two-run blast of the day one pitch later. Rager, who finished the two games 4-for-6 with three walks, singled in the next at bat to keep the inning alive.
Senior center fielder Amanda Carpenter would capitalize with a RBI double to move the score to 3-0. It was Carpenter’s league-leading 15th double of the year.
The score remained 3-0 heading to the top of the sixth, which saw sophomore designated player Loran Cihlar reach base on a one-out double. Cihlar would advance to third on a groundout from sophomore pinch hitter Jessica Craft before scoring on a wild pitch.
The Cardinals tacked up the game’s final run on a RBI single to center field from junior third baseman Audrey Bickel. Gilbert reached base on a single to open the inning, advanced to second on a walk to Rager and scored on Bickel’s single.
In the circle, Steinbach would throw her fifth complete game shutout of the season, limiting the Zips to just two hits over seven innings. She also struck out five batters on the game.
Erin Seiler (10-12) suffered the loss after surrendering 10 hits and five earned runs over 6.0 innings of work. She would strikeout six BSU batters while issuing just one walk.
GAME TWO RECAP: Ball State 11 – Akron 6
The second game was a tale of two halves, with the Cardinals trailing 4-3 heading into a 43-minute rain delay in the bottom of the fifth inning. Ball State would rally to force extra innings and eventually out-score the Zips 8-2 over the final three innings.
After a scoreless first inning, Akron rallied for its first two runs of the day in the bottom of the second on a RBI double from Erin Pond followed by a RBI single from Taryn Allmon.
Trailing for the first time on the day, the Cardinals responded with three runs in the top of the third to pull ahead 3-2. Cihlar opened the inning with a walk and came around to score on an Akron error following a single from sophomore second baseman Taylor Cox. After a pair of outs, Rager deposited a two-run blast over the center field wall to give BSU a brief edge.
Akron loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame and managed to tie the score on a Jessica Schneider sacrifice fly.
The Zips would reclaim the lead in the bottom of the fourth on a RBI single from Shawna Hochstetler. Ball State would avert any more damage with an inning-ending sacrifice fly.
After holding Ball State scoreless in the top of the fifth, Akron put runners on the corners with two outs in the bottom of the frame before the rain came and the trap went on the field. Following the 43-minute rain delay, a lineout to short would end the inning.
With two outs in the top of the sixth, Robertson would spark the BSU offense and even the score with a solo shot to left field.
Unfortunately, a BSU error and a Kellie Roudabush RBI single in the bottom of the frame helped the hosts reclaim the advantage at 6-4.
Down to its final three outs of the game, freshman pinch hitter Emily Dabkowski opened the seventh inning by working the count full before blasting a single up the middle. Cox would reenter the game to run, but her speed was not needed as Gilbert evened the score at 6-6 with a two-run bomb to center.
After Steinbach retired the Zips in order in the top of the seventh, Ball State would take control of the game in the top of the eight with some more help from Gilbert.
Robertson would open the inning with a single up the middle, while freshman pinch runner Briana Evans advanced to second on a single from freshman shortstop Selena Reyna. Cihlar followed with BSU’s third consecutive single to load the bases with no outs.
Cox would drive in what proved to be the game-winning run on a RBI fielder’s choice with the play at third coming up empty to leave the bases loaded. Another fielder’s choice by Stuedemann led to the first out of the inning on a play at home.
With bases loaded and one out, Gilbert followed with her MAC-record breaking grand slam to drive in career RBI’s 166 to 169 and give BSU an 11-6 edge.
Steinbach would then throw another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the eighth to end the game and complete the thrilling come-from-behind victory.
In pitching the final 2.2 innings, Steinbach limited Akron to just one hit while striking out a pair of batters.
Redshirt junior Audra Sanders started the game in the circle for Ball State, pitching the opening 4.0 innings and giving up five hits and four earned runs. Kelsey Schifferdecker entered the game in relief of Sanders, limiting the Zips to two hits and two earned runs over 1.1 innings of work.
In her first pitching start of the season, Lisa Lash suffered the loss for Akron allowing 13 hits and 11 runs over 7.1 innings of work. Lash, who had only pitched 2.2 innings in the season prior to today’s start, also struck out four batters in the contest.