MUNCIE, Ind. - - Thanks to an eighth inning walk-off home run from freshman shortstop Selena Reyna, the Ball State softball team pushed its 2013 Mid-American Conference record to 18-2 with a 6-5 victory over Kent State Saturday afternoon at the BSU Softball Complex.
With the win, Ball State head coach Craig Nicholson also picked up his 100th career MAC victory, improving to 100-46 (.685) in seven seasons of league play.
Ball State, which secured the 2013 Mid-American Conference Regular Season Championship and the No. 1 seed in next week’s MAC Tournament yesterday with a doubleheader sweep over Buffalo, improved to 35-14 overall this season with today’s win.
The Golden Flashes, who fall to 26-19-1 (15-6 MAC) with the loss, still have a one-game lead in the hunt for the No. 2 seed in next week’s league tournament, as Central Michigan suffered a 7-3 setback at Ohio Saturday and is 14-7 in MAC play.
In addition to Reyna’s fifth career home run, junior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert blasted her program-record 21st long ball of the season and sophomore designated player Hanne Stuedemann added her eighth four-bagger of the year.
In a storyline dominated by home runs, perhaps the game’s biggest hit came from Ball State’s first batter sophomore right fielder Loren Cihlar. With a 2-2 count in the bottom of the first inning, Cihlar fouled off four straight pitches before taking ball three and then connecting for a tone-setting single.
Cihlar, who went 2-for-3 in the game, would then come around to score on a BSU double steal attempt when the throw to second base was misplayed allowing her to cross the plate from third.
Kent State would battle back to tie the score in the top of the third, as leadoff hitter Jessacca Gironda reached base on a BSU error and eventually came around to score on a RBI single from Lauren Grimes.
The score did not stay tied for long, as Stuedemann connected for a two-run blast in the bottom of the inning to give Ball State a 3-1 edge. Cihlar leadoff the frame with a bunt single to set-up Stuedemann’s two-run rocket shot over the left field wall.
After a scoreless fourth inning, the Golden Flashes rallied to tie the score once again in the top of the fifth, as a two-out RBI triple from Grimes and a BSU throwing error on a rundown play evened the score at 3-3.
Once again, the Cardinals responded in the bottom of the inning with a home run. After Stuedemann leadoff the inning with a walk, freshman pinch runner Briana Evans stole second to give BSU a runner in scoring position. However, BSU did not need to relay on small ball to break the stalemate as Gilbert launched a no-doubter over the center field wall for her 21st home run of the year.
Needing to rally in the seventh, the Golden Flashes did just that with back-to-back singles to open the frame. A fly to left would give BSU the first out of the inning, but an error on the throw in to third allowed Kent State to cut the Cardinals’ advantage to 5-4.
After a strikeout from BSU senior relief pitcher Audra Sanders put the second out on the scoreboard, Lauren Balodis would smash a RBI double off the left field wall that was just out of the reach of BSU’s Gilbert to tie the score at 5-5 and force extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Kent State would put runners on the corners with two outs, but Sanders would force a groundout to first base to end the threat.
Reyna, who went 3-for-4 in the game, would then come through for Ball State in the bottom of the inning by blasting a one-out, walk-off solo-shot over the left field wall.
Sanders would pick up the win in Saturday’s contest to improve to 8-2. Over two innings of work, Sanders surrendered four hits and two earned runs while striking out one batter.
Freshman Kelsey Schifferdecker was BSU’s starting pitcher in the game, allowing just five hits and three runs (one earned) over six innings of work. She would also strikeout a pair of batters.
Kent State’s ace Emma Johnson suffered the loss in the circle, falling to 20-10 on the year after allowing eight hits and six runs (five earned) over 7.1 innings. She also struck out seven batters.
The Ball State softball team concludes the 2013 regular season Sunday with a 1 p.m. first pitch versus Kent State at the BSU Softball Complex. The game will also serve as senior day for the Cardinals as they honor Amanda Carpenter, Julie Cortez, Sadie Robertson, Audra Sanders and Lauren Williamson prior to the start of the contest.