MUNCIE, Ind. - - For the fifth time this season, the Ball State softball team has swept the Mid-American Conference West Division weekly awards with junior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert being named player of the week and freshman Nicole Steinbach earning pitcher of the week honors.
Gilbert earns MAC West Division Player of the Week honors for the fourth time this season and the eighth time in her career, while Steinbach claims her fifth MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week award this season. This is the third time this season the pair have claimed the awards together. Overall, the Cardinals have had at least one MAC weekly award winner in each of its nine weekends of play this season, while sweeping the award Feb. 19, March 19, March 25, April 1 and April 15.
Overall, the pair helped guide the Cardinals to a perfect 5-0 record last week, including a 4-0 mark in Mid-American Conference play. Ball State enters Wednesday’s non-conference game at Ohio State with a 28-11 overall record, including a perfect 12-0 mark in MAC action.
Gilbert, who lead the Ball State offense with a .588 (10-for-17) batting average last week, blasted six home runs over the five games to raise her season total to 19 which is a Ball State single-season record and ties the MAC single-season mark set by Kelli Metzger of Akron in 1999. The six home runs also moved her career total to 52, making her just the second player in MAC history to blast 50 career home runs.
In addition, with her third career grand slam in the eighth inning of game two of Friday’s doubleheader at Akron, Gilbert became the MAC’s all-time career RBI leader. Over the five games, Gilbert drove in 16 RBI to raise her career total to 173 which is six better than the previous league standard of 167 set by Metzger from 1996-99.
With her eight runs score over the five games, Gilbert also raised her career runs total to 150 which moves her into second in program history and third in league annals in that category.
Gilbert’s two-run home run in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader at Akron drove in the eventual game-winning run, while her two-run blast in the seventh inning of the nightcap forced extra innings. Gilbert would then smash an eighth inning grand slam to give BSU complete control of the game. Saturday at Ohio, Gilbert’s three-run homer in the sixth inning also drove in what turned out to be the game-winning runs.
Steinbach, who shares this week’s MAC Pitcher of the Week honor with Central Michigan’s Kara Dornbos, picked up three MAC wins for the Cardinals over the weekend to improve to 7-0 in league games this season. She opened the week by collecting a complete game shutout victory, her fifth of the season and second in MAC play, over Akron. She limited the Zips to just two hits and three walks over seven innings, while throwing five strikeouts.
Later in the day, Steinbach would enter the second game of the doubleheader at Akron with one out in the sixth inning and proceed the shut the Zips down for 2.2 innings to pick up her second victory of the day. As Ball State tallied seven runs over the final two innings to force extra innings and eventually win the game, Steinbach held the Akron offense to just one hit over the final stretch in which she also struck out a pair of batters.
Steinbach picked up her second complete game victory of the weekend Saturday, helping the Cardinals get past Ohio by a score of 9-7.