► THIS WEEK IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL: The Ball State softball team is slated to open Mid-American Conference action Sunday with a 1 p.m. doubleheader versus Kent State at Akron’s Lee R. Jackson Field.
► A WINTERY MESS: Ball State was slated to open the 2014 MAC season at Buffalo Friday, but the winter weather has left the Bulls’ Nan Harvey Field unplayable and no alternative site could be found ... The Cardinals were then scheduled to play single games at Kent State Saturday and Sunday, but those games were moved to Akron due to unplayable field conditions at the Diamond at Dix, KSU’s home field ... Finally, the series with the Golden Flashes was changed to a Sunday doubleheader due to a wet, wintery forecast for Saturday.
► FOLLOW THE ACTION: Ball State fans can follow Sunday’s doubleheader versus Kent State with live stats available at BallStateSports.com ... Fans can also get regular updates by following the team on Twitter: @BallStateSB - Instagram: ballstatesb - Facebook: BallStateSoftball
► CARDINALS ALL-TIME: The Ball State softball program enters Sunday’s games versus Kent State with an 872-926-4 (.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).
► IN THE MAC PART 1: The Ball State softball team is 355-375-1 (.486) all-time in Mid-American Conference action ... The Cardinals best two seasons, based on winning percentage, came in 2009 and 2013 when BSU went 18-3 (.857) ... BSU has claimed four (2009, 2010, 2012 & 2013) of the last five MAC Regular Season titles and won the 1998 and 2010 MAC tournaments to earn the only two NCAA Regional berths in program history.
► IN THE MAC PART 2: Over the past five seasons, the Cardinals have proven to be one of the MAC’s premier programs by racking up an 83-22 (.790) record in league play ... Kent State has the second-best league record over the past five seasons at 68-38 (.642).
► 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 Sunday’s doubleheader versus Kent State with a 360-355-1 (.503) career record, including an 18-11 ledger so far in her first season at Ball State ... Perry’s biggest win so far at Ball State was a 3-0 victory at 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 the first weekend of league play with an 18-11 overall record ... The Cardinals are the top batting team in the MAC, and rank 16th nationally with a .331 team batting average ... Ball State leads the league in hits (262), doubles (50), triples (9) and home runs (32) ... BSU’s 91 multiple-base hits are 20-more than the next closest team, Central Michigan at 71 ... In fact, BSU’s 50 doubles are more than the multiple-base hit total for nine of the other 12 league teams ... Individually, sophomore center fielder Briana Evans leads the Ball State offense and ranks second in the MAC with a .407 batting average, while senior third baseman Audrey Bickel is second on the squad and third in the MAC at .382 ... Senior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert enters the week as the league leader in slugging percentage (.831), runs scored (30), RBI (35), home runs (10), total bases (74), and walks (16) ... In the circle, sophomore Kelsey Schifferdecker owns an 8-4 record and threw the Cardinals’ first complete game shutout of the season versus George Mason (Feb. 16) ... Schifferdecker has a team-leading 4.07 ERA over 75.2 innings of work and has struck out 38 batters.
► RPI UPDATE: Based on the strength of its 18-11 record entering the week, the Ball State softball team was ranked 70th in the first NCAA RPI rankings of the 2014 season ... The Cardinals have played 15 games versus top 100 teams and own a 5-10 record in those games ... BSU’s average RPI loss this season is 37 ... Kent State is currently the highest ranked team in the MAC with a RPI of 45 ... KSU is also 5-10 versus top 100 opponents this season.
► SCOUTING THE GOLDEN FLASHES: Kent State enters the first weekend of league play with a 14-12 overall record, including a 3-0 win over then-No. 5 Kentucky (Feb. 22) ... KSU is scheduled to host Miami in a 1 p.m. doubleheader Friday at Akron’s Lee R. Jackson Field before playing the Cardinals Sunday ... The Golden Flashes entered the week ranked 10th in the league with a .241 team batting average ... In the circle, KSU boasts the league’s third-ranked pitching staff with a combined 2.69 ERA ... Individually, Maddy Grimm owns a team-best .354 batting average, and is one home run behind BSU’s Jennifer Gilbert on the league’s long ball list with nine on the season ... Kim Kirkpatrick is second on the KSU squad with a .300 batting average ... In the circle, reigning Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year Emma Johnson owns a 1.98 ERA and a 7-6 record over 81.1 innings of work ... Johnson has two complete game shutouts on the year, with one coming versus Kentucky, and has tallied 92 strikeouts.
► SERIES VERSUS KENT STATE: Entering Sunday’s twinbill, the Golden Flashes hold a 46-30 advantage in the all-time series versus the Cardinals ... Last season, the teams split the regular season series played at the BSU Softball Complex ... Ball State won the Saturday (May 4) game by a score of 6-5 on an eighth-inning walk-off home run from then-freshman shortstop Selena Reyna ... The Golden Flashes rebounded to win the Sunday (May 5) game by a score of 5-3 ... Overall, Ball State has won five of the last seven meetings, following a 12-of-13 run by Kent State from April 28, 2004 - April 18, 2010.
► LEADING THE NATION: Jennifer Gilbert entered the week as the NCAA Division I active career leader in RBI (220), runs scored (191), doubles (56) and home runs (66) ... Gilbert’s 220 career RBI were 23 ahead of the next closest player, Alabama’s Kaila Hunt, entering the week ... Her 66 career home runs were tied with Oklahoma junior Lauren Chamberlain, while her 191 career runs scored were five ahead Chamberlain’s career total ... Gilbert’s 56 career doubles were two ahead of Harvard’s Kasey Lange, and just four more than her Ball State classmate first baseman Taylor Rager at 52 ... Gilbert also entered the week ranked fifth in career slugging percentage (.794), sixth in at bats (651) and sixth in hits (245) among active NCAA Division I players.
► BREAKING THE CANADIAN RECORD: With her fifth-inning, two-run home run over the left-center field wall in Ball State’s 6-4 win over North Dakota State (March 22), Jennifer Gilbert became the NCAA career home run leader among Canadian-born players ... Prior to Gilbert, the title of Canada’s top NCAA softball slugger was 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 five of the seven 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 (Feb 10 & 17) and Nicole Steinbach (March 3 & 24) have each picked up a pair of MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week honors ... Senior first baseman Taylor Rager also earned player of the week accolades Feb. 10 ... 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 59, Taylor Rager is also quickly climbing up BSU’s career offensive charts ... Based on the strength of her .363 batting average this season, Rager is currently fourth in program history with a .351 career batting average ... Her 155 career RBI are second in BSU annals, while her 32 career home runs and 52 career doubles are both third.
► WALK IT OUT: Taylor Rager enters the week ranked sixth in MAC history with 99 career walks, including 11 this season ... In addition, senior third baseman Audrey Bickel and Jennifer Gilbert are tied for 15th on the league’s career walks chart at 80 ... Bickel has walked eight times this season, while Gilbert leads the league with 16 free passes ... The only other active MAC players ranked in the top 20 on the league’s career walks chart are Ohio senior Raven King (84) and Miami senior Kayla Ledbetter (80).
► 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.
► Audrey Bickel provided a pair of game-winning RBI for the Cardinals last weekend, while leading the team with a .474 batting average, nine hits and nine RBI over the six games ... She blasted her third career grand slam in Saturday’s win over UMKC, which was her 20th career home run.
► Of Briana Evans’ league-leading 35 hits this season, 19 have either been infield or bunt singles ... Evans is also tied for fifth in the MAC with eight stolen bases this season.
► Briana Evans also leads the league with four triples this season, with all four coming in BSU victories ... Her first triple came in a 7-1 win over Morehead State (Feb. 22) ... Her second came in a 12-0 (5 inn.) win over Alabama A&M (March 14) ... She posted triples in back-to-back games last weekend in wins over North Dakota State (6-4) and UMKC (8-0, 5 inn.) on March 22.
► Junior left fielder Loren Cihlar remains the top base stealer in program history based on percentage, with a .933 (28-for-30) rate of success ... She is 8-for-8 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 26 of Ball State’s 29 games and owns a team-best 10-game hitting streak starting versus No. 3 Arizona State (March 2) and ending following a single versus No. 23 Auburn (March 15).
► Emily Dabkowski 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 ... She also showed a flair for the dramatic versus Murray State (Feb. 22), blasting an eighth inning walk-off two-run homer over the left-center field wall to give BSU the 5-3 victory.
► Overall, Emily Dabkowski has helped account for nine game-winning runs this season, including scoring the winning run six times and adding three game-winning RBI ... Jennifer Gilbert is second, accounting for seven game winning runs, with six game-winning RBI and one game-winning run scored ... Four of Gilbert’s 10 home runs this season have produced eventual game-winning RBI.
► Speaking of doubles, Taylor Rager entered the week ranked first in the MAC and second in the nation with 14 doubles this season ... As a team, the Cardinals rank 11th nationally with a 1.72 doubles-per-game average.
► Of the Cardinals’ nine position starters, six are batting .323-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 10 and Emily Dabkowski, Taylor Rager and Audrey Bickel following at four each.
► 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) ... She added her sixth career home run versus No. 23 Auburn (March 15), which was her first career solo shot ... Of her seven career home runs, three have been three-run blast, two have been two-run shots, while another was a walk-off grand slam to cap last season’s run rule of Butler (April 9, 2013).
► Ball State’s defense tallied three double plays last weekend at the Mizzou Tournament, raising its season total to 14 ... The 14 double plays have the Cardinals ranked first in the league and 15th nationally with a 0.48 double plays-per-game average ... Last season, Ball State ranked fourth nationally with a 0.56 double plays per game average, turning 30 double plays in 54 games.
► Uniform Watch 2014: Ball State enters the week with a 7-1 record in its white uniform, a 10-5 mark in its black uniform, a 1-4 ledger in its grey uniform and a 0-1 mark in its red tops ... The Cardinals are expected to wear their black uniforms for Sunday’s twinbill versus Kent State.