MT. PLEASANT, Mich. - - The Ball State softball team pushed its lead in the Mid-American Conference standings to four games with a doubleheader sweep of Central Michigan Friday afternoon at Margo Jonker Stadium.
After a quick 12-0, five inning victory in the opening game, the Cardinals scored a 6-4, 10-inning win in the night cap to improve to 32-13 (15-1 MAC). The Chippewas fall to 25-16 (11-5 MAC) with the pair of setbacks. Kent State also enters the weekend with an 11-5 league record after having Friday off.
Sophomore right fielder/designated player Hanne Stuedemann led the Ball State offense over the two games, going 4-for-7 at the plate with five runs scored, two RBI, a double and a home run. Stuedemann also drew a walk and was hit by a pitch. Her RBI double in the 10th inning of the second game proved to be the game-winning hit.
Sophomore designate player/right fielder Loren Cihlar also had a strong day on offense, going 4-for-9 with four singles and four runs scored. She was a catalyst for BSU offense in the second game, coming up with a pair of pivotal rally-starting extra-inning hits, including a two-out single in the eighth and a leadoff single in the 10th.
However, Cihlar’s biggest play of the day came on defense in the bottom of the seventh in the second game, as CMU had runners at first and third with two outs and looking to win. The Chippewas’ Trista Cox would smoke a liner into short right field for what looked to be the game-winning hit. However, Cihlar came up with a spectacular game-saving diving catch for the inning’s final out which allowed the Cardinals to eventually pull out the win in the 10th as she came around to score the winning run.
Junior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert added her MAC single-season record 20th home run of the season in the top of the eighth inning of game two to give Ball State a brief 4-1 edge. She added a pair of doubles in the opener to finish the day 3-for-9 with five RBI and two runs scored. With her five RBI, Gilbert raised her MAC career-record RBI total to 178.
In the circle, freshman Nicole Steinbach turned in a gem in the first game, limiting the Chippewas to just two hits in her sixth complete game shutout of the season. In improving to 13-8 on the season, Steinbach also tallied six strikeouts while issuing just one walk.
The Ball State softball team returns to action Saturday afternoon when it opens its final MAC regular season road series with a 2 p.m. first pitch at Eastern Michigan.
GAME 1 RECAP: Ball State 12 – Central Michigan 0 (5 inn.)
Cihlar opened the first game of Friday’s doubleheader with a single to center field and the Cardinals kept hitting from there, pulling ahead 6-0 in the opening inning. Stuedemann followed Cihlar’s single with one of her own, while Gilbert drove both runners in with a double to the left field wall.
After a pair of strikeouts, junior third baseman Audrey Bickel drew a walk and senior catcher Sadie Robertson was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Freshman shortstop Selena Reyna followed with her second career grand slam to push the Cardinals ahead 6-0.
Stuedemann tallied her second hit of the game to lead off the second inning, while junior first baseman Taylor Rager followed one out later with a two-run homer to center field to give Ball State an 8-0 advantage. The home run was Rager’s ninth of the season.
Senior center fielder Amanda Carpenter gave Ball State an 11-0 lead in the top of the third by smashing a three-run double to left center field. With one out, Cihlar reached base on an error, while both Stuedemann and Rager drew walks to load the bases for Carpenter’s bases-clearing, two-out double.
Stuedemann would open the fifth inning with a solo home run, her seventh of the season, to give the game its final score of 12-0.
CMU ace Kara Dornbos suffered the loss in the circle, falling to 10-10 on the season after allowing seven runs on five hits and a pair of walks. Morgan Yuncker pitched the final 4.0 innings for CMU, allowing five runs (two earned) on five hits.
GAME 1 RECAP: Ball State 12 – Central Michigan 0 (5 inn.)
The second game of Friday’s doubleheader started out as a pitching duel, with the teams playing to a 1-1 tie over the first seven innings.
Central Michigan scored the game’s first run, as a pair of BSU errors allowed CMU’s Cox to cross the plate.
Ball State evened the score in the top of the fifth on Bickel’s fifth home run of the season, a leadoff solo shot over the center field wall.
The biggest play of the game for the Cardinals followed with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, when the Chippewas had runners at first and third with two outs. On what looked to be the game-winning single to right field from CMU’s Cox, Ball State’s Cihlar came up with a game-saving diving catch for the inning’s final out.
Gilbert looked to close the door on CMU in the top of the eighth, with her MAC single-season record 20th home run of the season, a three-run blast to left center field. With two outs, Cihlar started the rally with a single, while Stuedemann was hit by a pitch to give Gilbert two runners on.
Unfortunately, Central Michigan answered with a one-out, two-run home run by Brittney Horan to pull within one run at 4-3. Then a pair of Ball State errors led to the tying run at 4-4 to force more softball.
After a scoreless ninth inning, the Cardinals rallied for two more runs in the 10th inning. Cihlar sparked the rally with a first-pitch single up the middle, while a Stuedemann double to left field brought Cihlar home for what proved to be the game-winning run. After a fly out to right field allowed Stuedemann to advance to third, a sacrifice fly from Rager gave Ball State an insurance run at 6-4.
Central Michigan would get a two-out single in the bottom of the 10th, but a fly out to left field ended the game.
Senior pitcher Audra Sanders picked up the win for the Cardinals in the circle, improving to 7-2 by holding the Chippewas to just one hit over the final 2.2 innings. She would also strikeout a batter in the 10th inning.
Freshman pitcher Kelsey Schifferdecker started the game in the circle for Ball State, limiting Central Michigan to 10 hits and four runs (two earned) over 7.1 innings of work. She would also strikeout four batters in the victory.
Chelsea Sundberg suffered the pitching loss for CMU, falling to 8-4 on the year after allowing 10 hits and six runs over 10.0 innings of work.