► THIS WEEK IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL: The Ball State softball team returns to action Saturday, when it battles Murray State (11 am ET/10 am CT) and Morehead State (4 pm ET/3 pm CT) at the Blues City Classic hosted by Memphis at Greenbrook Park in Southaven, Miss. ... The Cardinals close the tournament Sunday versus SEMO (11 am ET / 10 am CT).
► FOLLOW THE ACTION: Cardinals fans can follow the action at the Blues City Classic with live stats for all three games at the tournament central page:http://www.gotigersgo.com/sports/w-softbl/spec-rel/2014-blues-city-softbl-tourney.html ... Fans can also get regular updates by following the team on Twitter: @BallStateSB - Instagram: ballstatesb - Facebook: BallStateSoftball.
► CARDINALS ALL-TIME: After posting a 1-2 record at the Buffalo Wild Wings Spartan Invitational hosted by USC Upstate on Sunday and Monday, the Ball State softball program enters the Blues City Classic with an 858-917-4 (.484) all-time record in 39-plus seasons of play ... Established as a varsity program in 1975, Ball State has won four Mid-American Conference regular season titles (2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013), two MAC Tournament championships (1998 and 2010) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament twice (1998 and 2010).
► HEAD COACH TYRA PERRY: A two-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year (2009 & 2013), Tyra Perry was named the eighth head coach in Ball State softball history Aug. 6, 2013 ... Perry enters the Blues City Classic with a 346-346-1 (.500) career record, including a 4-2 ledger so far in her first season at Ball State ... Prior to coming to Ball State, Perry had six-year head coaching stints at both Western Kentucky (2008-13) and Birmingham-Southern (2002-07) ... In 2013, Perry guided WKU to the program’s first-ever NCAA Regional appearance and to a final ranking of 26th in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), the highest final ranking in program history ... The Lady Toppers also posted the program’s first 40-plus win season (43-18) under Perry’s tutelage in 2013, and earned its first SBC regular season title with a 20-3 league record.
► SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: The Ball State softball team enters the Blues City Classic with a 4-2 record after going 1-2 at last weekend’s Buffalo Wild Wings Spartan Invitational hosted by USC Upstate ... Sophomore center fielder Briana Evans leads the squad with a .438 batting average, while junior right fielder Loren Cihlar is close behind at .429 ... Ball State’s offense currently ranks second in the Mid-American Conference with a .325 team batting average and has connected for five home runs which is tied for first in the MAC ... In the circle, sophomore Kelsey Schifferdecker owns a spotless 3-0 record and threw the Cardinals’ first complete game shutout of the season versus George Mason (Feb. 16) ... Schifferdecker owns a 1.42 ERA over 19.2 innings of work and has struck out seven batters while issuing just three walks.
► THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS
MURRAY STATE: The Racers enter the Blues City Classic with a 5-2 record after posting a 3-0 mark at last weekend’s Hornet Invitational hosted by Alabama State ... At the two-day event, Murray State scored wins over Gardner-Webb (4-2), Alabama State (6-2) and Alabama A&M (8-0, 6 inn.) ... Alexa Becker leads the squad’s everyday starters with a .429 batting average which includes two doubles and one home run ... Cayla Levins is second on the squad with a .300 batting average ... In the circle, CheyAnne Gaskey owns a team-best 3-1 record and a 3.50 ERA over 20.0 innings of work ... She has struck out 17 batters while issuing 10 walks ... As a team, the Racers are batting .310 while limiting opponents to a .282 average ... Ball State and Murray State will be playing for the first time in softball.
MOREHEAD STATE: The Eagles opened the 2014 season by posting a 1-4 record at the Plainsman Invite hosted by Auburn opening weekend ... MSU was slated to play in the Phyllis Rafter Memorial Tournament last weekend, but it was canceled due to the winter storm which moved through the south ... Morehead State’s lone win opening weekend came versus Louisiana-Monroe (9-8) ... The Eagles dropped contests versus Louisiana-Monroe (7-1), North Dakota State (10-3), Auburn (12-0, 5 inn.) and Notre Dame (9-0, 5 inn.) ... Stephanie Etter, Karly Thompson and Dana Hutchins are tied for the team lead with .300 batting averages, with each collecting three hits so far this season ... Megan Tymorek has thrown a team-high 16.2 innings in the circle, and owns the team’s lone win to go along with a 7.98 ERA ... As a team, the Eagles are batting .182 while allowing opponents to connect for a .338 average ... Morehead State holds a 2-0 edge in the all-time series including a 7-5 victory in the latest meeting April 21, 2009 in Morehead, Ky.
SEMO: The Redhawks enter the Blues City Classic fresh off a 3-2 showing at last weekend’s Mardi Gras Classic hosted by Louisiana-Monroe ... SEMO opened the three-day event with a win over Houston Baptist (9-7), before suffering losses to host Louisiana-Monroe (6-4) and Houston Baptist (6-3) ... The Redhawks ended the event with a pair of wins over Grambling State (9-1, 5 inn / 2-0) ... Savannah Carpenter and Chelsea Smith are tied for the team-lead with .500 batting averages, while Haylee Krack is not far behind at .467 ... In the circle, Keaira Schilling leads the squad with a 3.54 ERA over 20.1 innings of work ... She also has a 1-1 record and 15 strikeouts on the year ... The Redhawks own a .328 team batting average, while opponents are connecting at a .282 clip ... SEMO holds a 2-1 lead in the all-time series which has not seen a game since a 2-1 Ball State win March 28, 1993.
► SENIOR CLASS AWARD: Senior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert has been named one of 30 candidates for the prestigious Senior CLASS Award in collegiate softball ... To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition ... The 2014 candidate class will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those names will be placed on the official ballot ... The Senior CLASS Award winner will be announced during the 2014 NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City May 29 through June 4 ... For more information on all the candidates, visit seniorCLASSaward.com.
► TWO IN A ROW: For the second consecutive week, sophomore Kelsey Schifferdecker has been named the Mid-American Conference West Division Pitcher of the Week ... In her lone appearance last week, the 5-9 righty nailed down the Cardinals’ first complete game shutout of the season in a 2-0 victory over George Mason (Feb. 16) ... Schifferdecker is now a three-time career MAC Pitcher of the Week award winner ... Last season, the Cardinals had at least one MAC weekly award winner in 10 of its 12 weeks of play, including sweeping the awards five times.
► TYING THE MARK: With a two-run blast in the season-opening win over Texas State, senior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert tied the Mid-American Conference career home run record with her 57th career round tripper ... Gilbert’s 57 career home runs are the second-most for an active NCAA Division I player, trailing only the 61 put up by Oklahoma junior Lauren Chamberlain.
► TYING THE MARK PART 2: When Jennifer Gilbert crossed the plate to score what proved to be the game-winning run versus George Mason last Sunday, she tallied her 167th career run scored which ties the MAC career record set by former Ball State teammate Lisa Rozanski (2008-11) ... Gilbert also enters the weekend ranked among the MAC career leaders in doubles (5th at 48), batting average (6th at .377) and hits (T-15th at 219).
► CHASING THE CANADIAN RECORD: While she only has an slim chance of breaking the NCAA career record of 90 home runs, Jennifer Gilbert needs just nine long balls to become the NCAA career home run leader among Canadian-born players ... The current title of Canada’s top NCAA softball slugger is held by Jen Yee who racked up 65 career home runs while playing for Niagara (2006-07) and Georgia Tech (2009-10) ... Ironically, Gilbert and Yee are currently teammates on the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team and helped guide the squad to a silver medal at the VII Women’s Pan American Championship (Aug. 10-18) in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
► THE RAGER FACTOR: In addition to being the program’s record holder in double plays turned at 54, Taylor Rager is also quickly climbing up BSU’s career offensive charts ... Based on the strength of her .353 batting average so far this season, Rager has moved into fourth in program history with a .350 career batting average ... Her 29 career home runs rank third in BSU annals, while both her 138 career RBI and 40 career doubles are fourth.
► WALK IT OUT: Taylor Rager enters the week ranked eighth in Mid-American Conference history with 90 career walks, including two so far this season ... In addition, senior third baseman Audrey Bickel is tied for 24th on the league’s career walks chart at 73 ... The only other active MAC player ranked in the top 25 on the league’s career walks chart is Ohio senior Raven King with 84 career free passes.
► Thanks in part to a 3-for-3 effort versus USC Upstate, sophomore center fielder Briana Evans enters the weekend with a team-best .438 batting average from the nine hole ... In 16 at bats this season, Evans has seven total hits ... Last season, Evans logged just four hits in 26 at bats for a .154 average.
► At the top of the lineup, junior right fielder Loren Cihlar is second on the squad with a .429 average and has also drawn two walks for a team-leading .478 on base percentage among starters ... Of her team-high nine hits this season, three have been bunt singles and two others have been infield hits ... She also has a double to the left-center field wall to her credit this season.
► Loren Cihlar remains the top base stealer in program history based on percentage, with a .913 (21-for-23) rate of success ... She is 1-for-1 in stolen base attempts this season, earning her first swipe of the year versus Virginia Tech (Feb. 16)
► Sophomore second baseman Emily Dabkowski blasted her first career home run in the season-opener versus Texas State (Feb. 8), and is one of only two Ball State players to reach base safely in all six games this season ... Dabkowski has at least one hit in five games and has drawn a walk in three.
► Junior Hanne Stuedemann enters the week tied for sixth in program history with 16 career home runs, including one this season ... Stuedemann had a second home run versus Stephen F. Austin, but since the game did not finish the blast did not count.
► Sophomore shortstop Selena Reyna has made some spectacular defensive plays this season and enters the weekend with a perfect fielding percentage ... She has 12 putouts and 10 assists so far this year, and has also factored in one of Ball State’s four double plays this season.
► Seven of the nine players in Ball State’s projected lineup for the weekend have at least one career home run ... If you add junior catcher Jessica Craft to the lineup instead of freshman catcher Shelbie Scamihorn, then eight of the nine will have gone yard at least once in their career.
► Senior first baseman Lauren Schroeder blasted her fifth career home run to complete the walk-off, run rule victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Feb. 8) ... Of her five career home runs, one has been a two-run shot, three have been three-run blast, while the fifth was a walk-off grand slam to cap last season’s run rule of Butler ... Of the nine active players with at least one home run, Schroeder is the only one to not have a solo blast.
► The Ball State defense has turned four double plays so far this season which is tied with Northern Illinois for the MAC lead ... In 2013, Ball State ranked fourth nationally with a 0.56 double plays per game average, turning 30 double plays in 54 games.
► Sophomore Sammi Cowger made her first career pitching appearance versus USC Upstate Feb. 17 ... After giving up a hit to the first batter, Cowger induced an inning-ending double play to give Ball State one more at bat as they were trailing 7-0 in the contest with Cowger also inheriting a runner at first.
► Uniform Watch 2014: Ball State is 2-1 in both their black and white uniforms this season ... The Cardinals have not worn their gray uniforms yet in 2014.