► THIS WEEK IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL: The Ball State softball team returns to the BSU Softball Complex this weekend with single games versus its Mid-American Conference travel partner Miami on Saturday (5 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).
► SL TV: Due to the later start time of Saturday's game, the wet conditions at the BSU Softball Complex and a scheduling conflict with the production truck, Ball State Sports Link TV's coverage of this weekend's series versus Miami has been cancelled.
► LISTEN LIVE: Ball State Sports Link Radio WCRD 91.3 FM will pick up the coverage of this weekend's series versus Miami with Torey Fox (play-by-play) and Andy Wright (color commentary) bring fans the action LIVE over the airwaves on WCRD 91.3 FM in Muncie and online at BallStateSports.com ... 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 also 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
► THINK PINK: The Ball State softball team will host its annual Think Pink game Saturday versus Miami ... In support of cancer awareness, the Cardinals will wear special pink jerseys (donated in part by Country Shack) for the game, which will then be auctioned off with the proceeds going to Cancer Services of East Central Indiana - Little Red Door ... Other auction items include gift cards from local businesses and 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 which runs until Friday, April 26 at 5 p.m.
► CARDINALS ALL-TIME: After Wednesday’s loss at Ohio State, the Ball State softball program enters the weekend with an 845-910-4 (.482) all-time record 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 a 10-4 win over Western Michigan April 7 ... In his seventh season as Ball State’s head coach, Nicholson has amassed a 232-157 (.596) record at BSU, including a 94-44 (.681) 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 955-247 (.795) 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 28-12 overall record and a 12-0 MAC mark ... Jennifer Gilbert leads the MAC at the plate with a .496 (63-for-127) batting average, 19 home runs, 58 RBI and 45 runs scored ... In the circle, freshman Nicole Steinbach has thrown a league-best five of complete game shutouts, owns a team-best 2.29 ERA and is limiting opposing batters to a .231 average ... As a team, the Cardinals own a MAC-best .325 batting average and rank fourth in the league with a 3.07 team ERA ... BSU’s opponents are batting a combined .256 and have a 6.50 ERA in the circle.
► RPI UPDATE: On the strength of its 28-11 overall record entering the week, the Ball State softball team is ranked 50th in the latest NCAA RPI rankings ... In the first RPI rankings released March 24th, the Cardinals were listed 85th ... BSU was 72nd on April 1 and 57th last week ... Ball State is the top-ranked team in the Mid-American Conference with Kent State second at 94 ... The Cardinals are also the second-best team in the state of Indiana, trailing only Notre Dame (48th).
► SCOUTING THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS
MIAMI (NCAA RPI - 202) - The RedHawks enter the weekend with a 16-23 overall record which includes a 9-3 ledger in Mid-American Conference play ... In midweek action, Miami posted a 5-4 win at Northern Kentucky Tuesday in the first game of a scheduled doubleheader ... The second game was cancelled when lightning and heavy rain moved in with Miami leading 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth ... As a team, the RedHawks enter the weekend ranked fourth in the MAC with a .277 team batting average ... Kayla Ledbetter leads the squad with a .400 average, which includes eight doubles, a triple and six home runs ... She also boasts team-highs of 28 RBI and 25 runs scored ... In the circle, Miami’s 4.71 team ERA is ninth in the MAC ... In 31 appearances, Megan Mattera has a team-best 3.93 ERA but has only made nine starts despite pitching a team-high 110.1 innings ... Mattera has a 6-7 overall record and 37 strikeouts on the season ... Ball State holds a 47-40 advantage in the all-time series with the RedHawks, including winning both regular season meetings last season by scores of 9-6 and 13-12 on April 15 in Oxford ... Unfortunately, Miami picked up the biggest win last season by eliminating the Cardinals from the MAC Tournament with a 4-2 victory on May 11.
► THE AWARDS KEEP ROLLING IN: The Ball State softball team made it nine consecutive weeks with a Mid-American Conference award winner as junior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert was named the MAC West Division Player of the Week and freshman Nicole Steinbach was named the MAC West Division Co-Pitcher of the Week ... In addition, Gilbert was named both the College Sports Madness National Field Player of the Week and the Madness MAC Softball Player of the Week ... Overall, the Cardinals have had at least one MAC weekly award winner in each of its nine week of play this season, while sweeping the award five times; Feb. 19, March 19, March 25, April 1 and April 15 ... Gilbert and Steinbach have combined for three of the sweeps; Feb. 19, April 1 and April 15.
► 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 six home runs last week, Gilbert has tallied a Ball State and Mid-American Conference single-season record 19 home runs this season to raise her career total to 52 ... The total is second in MAC history, trailing only Kelli Metzger’s (1996-99 for Akron) career mark of 57.
► RECORD BREAKER PART 2: With her third career grand slam in the eighth inning of game two of last Friday’s doubleheader at Akron (April 12), Jennifer Gilbert became the MAC’s all-time career RBI leader … Over Ball State’s five games last week, 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 Kelli Metzger from 1996-99.
► ON THE NCAA STATS FRONT: Jennifer Gilbert entered the week ranked first among all NCAA Division I players with a 1.49 RBI-per-game average, while her 58 RBI this season also led the nation with Mercer’s Krista Kennedy in second at 56 … In addition, Gilbert ranked second in the nation in batting average (.500), second in home runs (19), second in home runs per game (0.49), third in slugging percentage (1.032), eighth in runs per game (1.15), 10th in on base percentage (0.570) and 104th in walks per game (0.59) entering the week ... Gilbert is one of three players to rank in the top 10 nationally in both RBI and runs scored, joining Oklahoma’s Laura Chamberlain and Longwood’s Megan Baltzell.
► DOUBLING UP: Led by senior center fielder Amanda Carpenter’s MAC-best 15 doubles this season, the Ball State offense entered the week leading the nation with a 1.95 doubles-per-game average ... Carpenter, who currently ranks second in program history with 48 career doubles, is sixth among all NCAA Division I players with her 0.39 doubles per game average ... As a team, the Cardinals have tallied 76 doubles this season which was 27 more than the next closest team in the MAC in Northern Illinois at 49 ... Ball State collected a program and MAC single-season record 100 doubles in 2012.
► MORE FROM CENTER FIELD: In addition to ranking second in program history with 48 career doubles, Amanda Carpenter is third in BSU annals in both career hits (217) and RBI (142), while ranking fourth in both career runs scored (137) and home runs (21) ... She also boasts a .981 career fielding percentage, with 298 putouts and 10 outfield assists compared to just six errors ... In fact, Carpenter has played 95 consecutive games without an error.
► DOUBLING UP PART 2: The Ball State defense has also picked up where it left off in 2012, turning 24 double plays so far this season, including three last weekend ... Junior first baseman Taylor Rager has had a hand in 21 of the twin killings, moving her into the top spot in program history with 50 career double plays turned ... Sophomore second baseman Taylor Cox has been involved in 13 of the twin killings this season, raising her career total to 36 which is second in program history ... BSU entered the week ranked fourth in the nation with a 0.62 double plays-per-game average this season, while its 24 double plays turned were fifth ... Last season, the BSU defense led the nation with both 33 double plays turned and a 0.60 double plays-per-game average.
► THE RAGER FACTOR: In addition to being the program’s record holder in double plays turned, Taylor Rager is also quickly climbing up BSU’s career offensive charts ... Based on the strength of her .415 batting average this season, Rager has moved into fourth in program history with a .347 career batting average ... Her 23 career home runs rank third in BSU annals, while her 114 career RBI are fifth.
► FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE ORDER: Sophomore designated player/right fielder Loren Cihlar, BSU’s nine-hole batter, is one of the hottest hitters on the team as of late, ranking second on the squad with a .469 batting average over the past 12 games ... Only Jennifer Gilbert has a higher average over the span at .528 ... Over the past 12 games, Cihlar has racked up 15 hits, including a pair of doubles and a triple ... She has scored eight runs and tallied five RBI, while also drawing four walks and posting a .528 on base percentage.
► STEINBACH DOMINATING THE CIRCLE: Ball State’s ace in the circle, Nicole Steinbach has been very impressive in her debut season having already earned five MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week honors ... In her 24 appearances, Steinbach has held teams to four-or-less hits 12 times and surrendered two-or-less earned runs 17 times ... She currently leads the league with five complete game shutouts, including two in MAC play ... She recorded a career-best 10 strikeouts versus Creighton (Feb. 22) and has tallied five-or-more Ks in an appearance nine times ... Over 125.1 innings of work, Steinbach is limiting opposing batters to a .231 average and recorded 90 strikeouts, both team-bests.
► THE NATIONAL RANKINGS: The Ball State offense entered the week ranked 20th in the nation with its MAC-leading .328 team batting average, while its 1.95 doubles-per-game average is first nationally ... The Cardinals offense also ranks in the top 25 nationally in scoring (7.26/sixth), slugging percentage (.539/12th) and home runs (1.31/15th) ... Complete national rankings for the 2013 Ball State squad can be found on page 15 of this release.
► NCAA ACTIVE CAREER LEADERS: Jennifer Gilbert’s 52 career home runs place her ninth among all active NCAA Division I players, while her 173 career RBI rank 12th ... Gilbert also ranks in the top 25 in slugging percentage (.789/10th), doubles (44/15th) and runs scored (150/23rd) ... Amanda Carpenter enters the week ranked sixth among all active players with 48 doubles, while also placing in the top 35 in at bats (660/13th), hits per game (.329/26th), runs scored (137/32nd) and RBI (142/34th).
► 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 77-19 (.802) conference record during the span ... Miami is second on the list at 65-35 (.650) followed by Kent State at 62-35 (.639).