AKRON, Ohio - - After a thrilling win over Ohio earlier in the day, the Ball State softball team saw its 2013 Mid-American Conference Tournament run come to an end with a 3-2 loss to Northern Illinois Saturday afternoon at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio.
With its second loss in the double elimination tournament, Ball State ended the 2013 season with a 37-17 overall record. The 2013 MAC Regular Season Champions, the Cardinals finished league play with an 18-3 MAC mark to win its fourth league title over the past five seasons.
In Saturday’s opener versus Ohio, junior first baseman Taylor Rager was the game’s hero with a first-inning grand slam which she followed with a walk-off, game-winning RBI triple in the seventh. Rager finished Saturday’s two games going 3-for-5 with five RBI, one run scored, two walks and a hit by pitch.
Junior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert also added a solo shot in the win over Ohio to finish the season with a Ball State single season record 23 home runs. Gilbert also collected two more RBI in the two games to bump her season total to 70 which is both a Ball State and Mid-American Conference single season record.
In her final two games for the Cardinals, senior center fielder Amanda Carpenter tallied a hit in each contest, while also scoring a run in the win over Ohio. Carpenter finishes her career ranked second in program history with 51 doubles, third in both hits (227) and RBI (150), plus fourth in career home runs (21) and runs scored (142).
Senior catcher Sadie Robertson also added a hit in the victory over the Bobcats, while senior pinch runner Julie Cortez also saw action in both games. Also appearing for the last time in their Ball State jerseys were senior pitchers Audra Sanders and Lauren Williamson.
GAME ONE RECAP: Ball State 7 – Ohio 6
Ohio opened the game strong with a leadoff double from Tessa Bailey followed by a pass ball to move her to third. While Ball State starting pitcher Nicole Steinbach was able to retire the next two batters, a RBI single up the middle from Chelsea Hortman gave the visitors on the score board a brief 1-0 edge.
However, the Cardinals quickly regained the momentum in the bottom of the frame. Sophomore designated player Loren Cihlar opened the inning with an infield single, while walks to sophomore right fielder Hanne Stuedemann and Gilbert quickly loaded the bases.
Rager wasted little time making the Ohio pitcher pay, blasting a grand slam over the left-center field fence to give Ball State a 4-0 edge.
Ohio would get one of the runs back on a RBI single from Lauren Gellerman in the top of the third, only to see the Cardinals post a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth to make the score 6-2. With one out, Gilbert blasted her 23rd home run of the season, while the Cardinals proceeded to load the bases for a two-out RBI walk to freshman shortstop Selena Reyna.
Ohio would not go down without a fight, however, as they scored one run in the fifth and three more in the sixth to even the score.
However, Rager would follow her opening-inning heroics with a more of the same in the seventh. With one out, Stuedemann collected an infield single to get a runner on. After Gilbert just missed her second home run of the game on a fly out to left, Rager smashed a game-winning triple down the right field line to plate Stuedemann from first.
Freshman pitcher Kelsey Schifferdecker would get the pitching win, improving to 15-4 on the year after coming into the game in relief to throw the final 1.1 innings. She retired all four batters she faced, including one strikeout.
Kaylin Clarke suffered the pitching loss for Ohio, falling to 2-3 on the year despite allowing just two hits and one run over the game’s final three innings.
GAME TWO RECAP: Northern Illinois 3 – Ball State 2
The Cardinals hot bats carried over in the first inning versus Northern Illinois, as Cihlar singled through the right side to open the game. After back-to-back outs, a single from Rager put runners at first and second. Carpenter would follow with a RBI single to left to plate Cihlar from second.
Unfortunately, a timely cut on the throw home helped catch Rager trying to advance to third for the inning’s final out.
After being held scoreless in the bottom of the first, the Huskies rallied for three runs in the bottom of the second to pull ahead 3-1. Erika Oswald would come up with a RBI sacrifice bunt, while a BSU error allowed her to reach first. The error proved costly, as Nicole Gremillion pushed across two more runs with a two-out, two run triple to left.
Ball State would get one of the runs back in the top of the fifth, thanks to a two-out RBI double from Gilbert. Stuedemann scored on the shot which hit off the temporary fence in center field to fall inches shy of being another Gilbert home run.
Unfortunately, after hitting Rager with a pitch following Gilbert’s double, Northern Illinois’ Emily Norton would retire the final seven Ball State batters to end the game. Norton, who improved to 16-16 with the win, held the Cardinals to five hits and a pair of runs over seven innings.
Schifferdecker would suffer the loss, falling to 15-5 after allowing 12 hits and three runs (one earned) over six innings. She would strikeout five batters.