► THIS WEEK IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL: The Ball State softball team opens its six-day, eight-game spring break road trip Tuesday at Jacksonville State with a scheduled 6 pm ET / 5 pm CT first pitch ... Wednesday, the Cardinals are slated to play a 3 pm ET / 2 pm CT doubleheader at UAB ... Ball State opens play in the three-day War Eagle Classic hosted by Auburn Friday with a Noon ET / 11 am CT contest versus Alabama A&M.
► FOLLOW THE ACTION: Ball State fans can follow the Cardinals over spring break at the links above ... Torey Fox, the play-by-play voice of Ball State softball, is slated to make his 2014 season debut at the War Eagle Classic and will carry the action LIVE and FREE on BallStateSports.com ... Fans can also get regular updates by following the team on Twitter: @BallStateSB - Instagram: ballstatesb - Facebook: BallStateSoftball
► CARDINALS ALL-TIME: After posting a 5-2 record in the state of Arizona, the Ball State softball program enters Tuesday’s game at Jacksonville State with an 866-919-4 (.485) 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 Ball State’s spring break trip with a 354-348-1 (.504) career record, including a 12-4 ledger so far in her first season at Ball State, including a 3-0 win over then-No. 3 Arizona State (March 2) ... 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: Ball State enters its eight-game spring break road trip with a 12-4 overall record ... The Cardinals posted a 5-2 record in Arizona, including a 3-0 victory over then-No. 3 Arizona State (March 2) ... Sophomore center fielder Briana Evans leads the Ball State offense with a .467 batting average, while senior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert and senior first baseman Taylor Rager are batting .408 and .404, respectively ... Ball State currently leads the league with a .354 team batting average and its 6.31 runs-per-game average is almost 1.5 runs better than Central Michigan (4.89) in second ... In the circle, sophomore Kelsey Schifferdecker owns a spotless 6-0 record and threw the Cardinals’ first complete game shutout of the season versus George Mason (Feb. 16) ... Schifferdecker owns a 2.97 ERA over 40 innings of work and has struck out 18 batters while issuing just 11 walks ... As a staff, Ball State’s pitchers have a combined 4.24 ERA.
► THIS WEEK’S OPPONENTS
JACKSONVILLE STATE: The Gamecocks enter Tuesday’s showdown versus Ball State with a 13-5 overall record ... Last week, JSU was able to play two games at the rain-shortened Chanticleer Challenge, posting wins over Appalachian State (5-0) and Furman (3-0) ... Sara Borders leads the Gamecocks with a .517 batting average, which includes seven doubles, six home runs and a triple ... In the circle, Jacksonville State has five different pitchers with at least one start ... Tiffany Harbin has a team-high eight appearances, posting a 3-3 record and 4.76 ERA over 32.1 innings of work ... JSU is batting .328 as a team, while holding opponents to a .231 average ... Ball State and Jacksonville State will be playing for the first time in softball.
UAB: The Blazers enter the week with an 8-12 overall record after opening Conference USA play by going 1-2 at East Carolina last weekend ... UAB’s lone win in the three-game series was a 5-4 (8 inn.) victory in the nightcap of a Saturday doubleheader ... ECU won the first game 2-1 and picked up a 7-1 victory Sunday ... Caitlin Attfield leads the Blazers with a .377 batting average and is second on the team with 12 RBI ... Leigh Streetman is UAB’s top pitcher, owning a 6-6 record, a 1.59 ERA and 86 strikeouts over 70.1 innings of work ... UAB is batting .237 as a team, while holding opponents to a .253 average ... Ball State holds a 3-0 lead in the all-time series, including a 3-0 win the latest meeting March 5, 2010, which also saw current BSU assistant coach Erica Sisson playing first base for the Blazers.
ALABAMA A&M: The Lady Bulldogs enter the week with an 8-13 overall record after dropping a pair of games to Austin Peay last Wednesday by scores of 15-6 and 4-0 ... Raven Grubbs leads the squad with a .358 batting average and 13 runs scored ... Anisa Britt has pitched a team-high 52.0 innings this season and owns a 4-4 record and 5.71 ERA ... Britt does have a complete game shutout to her credit this season ... The Lady Bulldogs are batting .266 as a team, while allowing opponents to connect for a .308 rate of success ... Ball State won the only previous meeting by a score of 11-1 (5 inn.) March 10, 2001.
RADFORD: The Highlanders enter the week with a 4-10 overall record after going 2-1 in games played at Elon last weekend ... Radford picked up a 2-1 (11 inn.) win over Towson Saturday, before suffering losses to Towson (9-6) and Elon (3-2) Sunday ... Jessie Hutchens has a team-best .357 batting average and three home runs this season ... In the circle, Rachael Walters owns a 4-3 record and 2.08 ERA over a team-high 40.1 innings of work ... Walters also has 39 strikeouts on the year ... Radford is batting .222 as a team, while allowing opponents to hit .273 ... Ball State holds a 2-1 lead in the all-time series despite suffering a 4-3 loss in the latest meeting March 19, 2011.
AUBURN: The Tigers enter the week with a 19-4-1 overall record after going 2-1 versus LSU last weekend to open SEC play ... LSU won the first game of the series by a score of 4-1, before Auburn rebound for 6-4 and 7-0 victories to conclude the series ... The Tigers are led offensively by Kasey Cooper who owns a .409 batting average, six home runs, 30 RBI and 30 runs scored ... In the circle, Lexi Davis has a 9-4 record, a 1.53 ERA and 74 strikeouts over 87.0 innings of work ... The Tigers are batting .285 as a team, while limiting opponents to a .211 average ... Auburn holds a 4-1 lead in the all-time series, including a 9-0 (5 inn.) win the latest meeting March 13, 2002.
IPFW: The Mastodons entered Monday with a 14-6 overall record and are slated to close play in the Aces Invitational later in the day with games versus Murray State and host Evansville ... On Sunday, IPFW scored a 7-2 win at Evansville, before suffering a 1-0 loss to Murray State ... Larissa Franklin, a teammate of Ball State’s Jennifer Gilbert on the Canadian National Team, leads the squad with a .477 batting average and 21 runs scored ... In the circle, Miranda Kramer paces the squad with an 8-3 record, 115 strikeouts and 1.37 ERA over 71.1 innings of work ... The Mastodons are batting .275 as a team, while limiting opponents to a .202 rate of success ... Ball State holds an 8-5 lead in the all-time series after the squads split a April 3, 2013 doubleheader in Fort Wayne ... The Cardinals won the first game 3-1, before suffering a 3-1 loss in the nightcap.
SAVANNAH STATE: The Lady Tigers enter the week with an 8-9 overall record after going 4-0 at the HBCU Classic Tiny Laster Tournament held March 1-2 ... Savannah State scored wins over Alabama State (8-2), Mississippi Valley State (4-1), Alabama A&M (4-2) and Grambling State (11-8) at the two-day event ... Torrian Wright leads the Lady Tigers with a .366 batting average and four home runs ... Amanda McHowell is SSU’s top pitcher with a 4-3 record, 5.79 ERA and 47 strikeouts over 56.0 innings of work .... The Lady Tigers are batting .279 as a team, while holding opponents to a .247 average ... Ball State and Savannah State will be meeting for the first time in softball.
► LEADING THE NATION: Jennifer Gilbert enters the week as the NCAA Division I active career leader in both RBI (206) and runs scored (182) ... She is also second among active NCAA Division I players with 62 career home runs, trailing only Oklahoma junior Lauren Chamberlain who blasted four long balls last weekend to raise her career total to 66.
► 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 four 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.
► RACKING UP THE AWARDS: The Ball State softball team continues to dominate the league’s weekly awards, picking up at least one honor in four of the five weeks of play this season, while sweeping the honors twice (Feb. 10 & March 3) ... Jennifer Gilbert has been named MAC West Division Player of the Week twice this season (Feb. 24 & March 3), while Kelsey Schifferdecker has picked up a pair of MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week honors (Feb. 10 & 17) ... Senior first baseman Taylor Rager earned player of the week accolades Feb. 10, while sophomore Nicole Steinbach garnered pitcher of the week March 3 ... 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.
► THE RAGER FACTOR: In addition to being the program’s record holder for career double plays turned at 54, Taylor Rager is also quickly climbing up BSU’s career offensive charts ... Based on the strength of her .404 batting average this season, Rager is currently fourth in program history with a .355 career batting average ... Her 30 career home runs rank third in BSU annals, while both her 148 career RBI and 46 career doubles are fourth.
► WALK IT OUT: Taylor Rager enters the week ranked seventh in MAC history with 92 career walks, including four this season ... In addition, senior third baseman Audrey Bickel is tied for 19th on the league’s career walks chart at 77, including five in 2014 ... The only other active MAC player ranked in the top 20 on the league’s career walks chart is Ohio senior Raven King with 84 career free passes.
► Ball State posted a 3-0 win at then-No. 3 Arizona State March 2, marking the highest-ranked opponent the Cardinals have defeated since a 2-1 victory at then-No. 3 Missouri March 19, 2010.
► Briana Evans led the Cardinals with a .550 (11-for-12) batting average over the team’s seven games in the state of Arizona ... Of her 11 hits, seven were infield singles and one was a double ... Evans currently leads the Cardinals with a .467 batting average this season.
► Junior left fielder Loren Cihlar remains the top base stealer in program history based on percentage, with a .926 (25-for-27) rate of success ... She is 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts this season, earning her first swipe of the year versus Virginia Tech (Feb. 16).
► After serving mainly as a pinch hitter/runner last season, sophomore Emily Dabkowski has stepped nicely into the starting role at second base for the Cardinals in 2014 ... She has reached base safely in all but one of the Cardinals’ 16 games this season and drove in what proved to be the game-winning run versus No. 3 Arizona State (March 2) with a two-out RBI single through the left side in the top of the seventh inning ... Dabkowski also showed a flair for the dramatic versus Murray State (Feb. 22), blasting an eighth inning walk-off two-run home run over the left-center field wall to give BSU the 5-3 victory.
► Audrey Bickel blasted a double in each of Ball State’s games at No. 7 Arizona last Tuesday ... Bickel enters the week rank second on the squad with seven doubles so far this season ... Bickel’s previous career high for doubles in a season in nine, which she recorded in both 2011 and 2012.
► Of the Cardinals’ nine position starters, six are batting .388-or-better this season ... Eight different players have blasted at least one home run for Ball State this season, with Jennifer Gilbert leading the way with six and Emily Dabkowski following at three.
► Jennifer Gilbert enters the week averaging 1.31 runs and 1.31 RBI per game, with 21 in each category over the first 16 games ... Emily Dabkowski has scored 19 runs (1.19 per game) and tallied 17 RBI (1.06 per game) this season ... Ball State the only team in the MAC with two players averaging over 1.0 runs and 1.0 RBI per game.
► In four at bats this season, sophomore pitcher/outfielder Sammi Cowger has collected three doubles and two RBI ... In the circle, Cowger leads the squad with a 2.33 ERA and has racked up a 1-0 record and a save ... Over 9.0 innings of work, Cowger has collected six strikeouts and limited opposing batters to a .156 average.
► Eight of the nine players in Ball State’s projected lineup this week have at least one career home run, with seven of them going yard at least once this season.
► 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.
► Uniform Watch 2014: Ball State enters the week with a 6-1 record in its white uniform, a 5-3 mark in its black uniform and a 1-0 ledger in its grey uniform ... The Cardinals have yet to play in the red uniforms, which are packed for the spring break trip.