MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State softball team ended the 2013 regular season with a 5-3 Senior Day setback to Kent State Sunday afternoon at the BSU Softball Complex.
The 2013 Mid-American Conference Regular Season Champion Cardinals return to action at 5 p.m. Thursday as the No. 1 seed in the 2013 MAC Softball Tournament at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio.
As the No. 1 seed, the Cardinals (35-15 /18-3 MAC) receive a double-bye in the double-elimination tournament.
Kent State, which improved to 27-19-1 (16-6 MAC) with the victory, locked up the No. 2 seed in the league tournament and will also take a double-bye into Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. contest.
In celebration of senior day, the Cardinals turned to senior pitcher Lauren Williamson for the starting nod in Sunday’s showdown. In her first career start in the circle, Williamson did not disappoint by limiting the Golden Flashes to three hits and one run in 2.1 innings of work.
Also starting in their final home games were senior center fielder Amanda Carpenter, senior catcher Sadie Robertson and senior designated player Julie Cortez. Senior pitcher Audra Sanders also saw action in relief of Williamson in the circle.
Robertson finished the game 1-for-3 at the plate, while Carpenter drew a walk and added a sacrifice fly.
Kent State broke onto the scoreboard in the top of the second inning, thanks to a two-out RBI blooper from Caitie Kilbane which was just out of reach of three Ball State infielders.
The Golden Flashes added a second run on a leadoff homer from Michele Duffy in the top of the fourth to pull ahead 2-0.
With steady rain falling in the top of the fifth, the Golden Flashes were able to capitalize on a hit batter to open the inning. Following a brief one-minute and 37 second rain delay, a BSU error put runners at second and third. The wet conditions then contributed to three straight walks to push the guests ahead 4-0.
With bases loaded and still no outs in the bottom of the inning, freshman pitcher Nicole Steinbach would enter the game and strikeout the next two batters and force an inning-ending groundout to limit the damage to just two runs. In three innings of work, Steinbach allowed just two hits and one earned run, while striking out four batters.
Ball State answered with all three of its runs in the bottom of the fifth, in a rally started by an infield bunt single from sophomore second baseman Taylor Cox. After a groundout, back-to-back walks to sophomore right fielder Hanne Stuedemann and junior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert loaded the bases for the Cardinals.
Junior first baseman Taylor Rager then sliced a two-run single through the right side to cut the Kent State advantage to 4-2. Carpenter would follow with a sacrifice fly to left field in the next at bat, driving in Gilbert from third. Unfortunately, KSU was able to double-up the BSU pinch runner at second after the run crossed to end the inning.
Kent State would get one of the runs back in the top of the sixth as Dani Remos led off the inning with a single, stole second and came around to score on a Kim Kirkpatrick single.
Ball State put runners at second and third with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, but unfortunately could not push the tying runs across.
Gilbert would tally a one-out triple in the seventh in an attempt to spark another BSU rally, but a pop up and groundout ended the game.
Lauren McNeil picked up the win in the circle for Kent State, improving to 6-6 on the year by limiting the Ball State offense to six hits and three earned runs over 4.1 innings of work.
Alyssa Frankenfield picked up her second save of the year by throwing the final 2.2 innings and surrendering just two hits. Both Kent State pitchers struck out three BSU batters.