Ball State suffered its first home defeat in Mid-American Conference play and just its third loss in 11 total home games this season.
The Cardinals dropped to 8-6-4 overall (5-3-2 MAC) with the loss, while Central Michigan secured first place in the MAC West Division at 12-5-1 overall (8-2-0 MAC).
Ball State has one regular-season game remaining Thursday at Miami University, which has already secured the top seed in the MAC Tournament. The Cardinals need a win over Miami and a Kent State loss to Ohio on Thursday to secure one of the top four seeds in the tournament and a first-round home game. Otherwise, the Cardinals will open tournament play on the road.
After a scoreless first half Sunday, Central Michigan's Autumn Hawkins and Kaely Schlosser scored the Chippewa goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Hawkins broke the scoreless tie in the 56th minute. Several headers following a throw-in led to Hawkins, who headed the ball just over the hand of Ball State goalkeeper Aubrey Buehler and into the top of the net. Schlosser tacked on the second goal in the 60th minute when her free kick from the left side of the box found the right corner of the goal.
The Chippewas then maintained their two-goal advantage over the final 30 minutes for the win.
"Central Michigan is a team that very much plays for re-starts, throw-ins, corners, and they have an excessive amount of plays for them," Ball State coach Craig Roberts said. "It becomes complicated for you to compete against those. I felt we did well the first half, but they obviously had a slight variation, and any letdown on those and you're going to get scored on."
Central Michigan held a 22-9 advantage in shots, becoming just the fourth team all season to out-shoot Ball State. They also earned seven corner kicks compared to one for the Cardinals.
Ball State's best opportunity for a goal came in the game's 30th minute. Central Michigan goalkeeper Stefanie Turner came diving out to deflect a shot by Nicole Pembleton and Jasmine Moses was there to gather it, but the ensuing shot from Moses hit the post.
Moses recorded two shots on the day, while seven other players managed one shot each for Ball State. Laura Gosse led Central Michigan with five shots, including three on goal. Turner and Buehler recorded five saves each.