►THIS WEEKEND IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL: The Ball State softball team ends the road portion of its 2012 regular season schedule this weekend when it visits Kent State and Buffalo . . . The Cardinals and Golden Flashes square off in a 1 p.m. doubleheader Friday, while BSU plays single games versus the Bulls Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).
►FOLLOW LIVE: Ball State fans can follow the action this weekend with live stats for all four games at the following link: http://ballstatesports.com/livestats . . . Fans can also get half-inning updates by following the team on Twitter @BallStSoftball.
►CARDINALS ALL-TIME: After posting a perfect 4-0 record last weekend, the Ball State softball program upped its all-time record to 809-895-4 (.475) in 37-plus seasons of play . . . Established as a varsity program in 1975, Ball State has won two Mid-American Conference regular season titles (2009 and 2010), two MAC tournament championships (1998 and 2010) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament twice (1998 and 2010).
►HEAD COACH CRAIG NICHOLSON: The fastest coach in program history to eclipse the 100-win mark, Craig Nicholson picked up his 900th collegiate coaching victory versus Northern Colorado (March 11) . . . In his sixth season as Ball State's head coach, Nicholson has amassed a 196-142 (.580) record at BSU, including a 32-12 record so far in 2012 . . . Under his guidance, the program won its first-ever Mid-American Conference regular season championship in 2009 with the best league record in program history (18-3) and repeated the feat in 2010 . . . The 2010 squad, which set program records for wins in a season (43) and winning percentage in a season (.729), also captured just the second MAC Tournament title in program history to advance to the NCAA Tournament . . . Nicholson owns a 919-232 (.798) career coaching record including his 723-90 mark in 11 years at Central Arizona.
►THE FIRST TO 20: The first team from the Mid-American Conference to reach both 20 and 30 wins this season, the Cardinals enter the week with a league-best 32-12 (.727) overall record and are currently first in the MAC with a 10-2 (.833) conference mark . . . BSU entered the week ranked 27th in the nation among the 289 NCAA Division I programs with a .727 winning percentage.
►SCOUTING THE GOLDEN FLASHES: Kent State enters Friday's doubleheader with a 24-20 (10-4 MAC) record after splitting a Wednesday doubleheader versus Penn State . . . KSU won the opener 11-3 (5), but dropped the nightcap 9-0 (5) . . . In MAC action last weekend, KSU scored a pair of wins at Buffalo last Sunday by scores of 14-11 (10) and 9-6 . . . Dani Ramos leads the Golden Flashes offense with a .346 batting average and 10 stolen bases . . . Jessica Blanton is second on the team with a .328 average and has drawn a team-high 29 walks . . . Emma Johnson is the KSU's ace in the circle, with a 14-11 record and a 2.10 ERA . . . Johnson has struck out 178 batters over 159.2 innings and has held opponents to a .238 batting average . . . While Kent State holds a 44-28 advantage in the all-time series, Ball State has won the last three meetings, including a 10-0 (5) victory in the lone meeting last season April 22, 2011 . . . BSU also scored a pair of victories over KSU in the 2010 MAC Tournament, including a 5-1 victory in the championship game May 15 . . . However, the Golden Flashes did win both regular season meetings in 2010 on their home field by scores of 3-2 (April 17) and 6-5 (April 18).
►SCOUTING THE BULLS: Buffalo enters the weekend with a 14-23 (4-9 MAC) record after dropping a pair of league games to Kent State last Sunday by scores of 14-11 (10) and 9-6 . . . The Bulls, who had pair of games versus St. Bonaventure cancelled Tuesday due to the recent snow storm, are scheduled to host Miami in a Friday doubleheader before playing the Cardinals . . . Alexis Curtiss leads the Bulls offense with a .383 batting average while ranking second in both RBI (21) and runs scored (23) . . . Sammi Gallardo is second on the team with a .323 average and leads the team with 22 RBI . . . Tori Speckman is the Bulls' ace in the circle, with an 11-11 record and a 4.71 ERA . . . Speckman has struck out 92 batters over 119.0 innings and has held opponents to a .238 batting average . . . Ball State holds a 12-3 lead in the all-time series including eight straight wins . . . Last season, BSU scored 9-1 (5) and 7-4 victories in an April 23 doubleheader . . . Buffalo's last win in the series came April 19, 2008 in a 4-3 showdown.
►SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: The Cardinals enter the weekend with a 32-12 (10-2 MAC) overall record after posting a 5-0 record last week . . . Senior shortstop Alison Mercado paces the Ball State offense with a .425 batting average, while senior catcher/designated player Amanda Montalto is second at .406 . . . As a team, the Cardinals are first in the league with a .321 batting average, including a MAC-best 55 home runs . . . On the mound, senior right-hander Audrey Workman has a 3.00 ERA and a 13-9 record over 151.2 innings of work, while classmate Kim Mazzapica is 19-3 in the circle with a 3.12 ERA over 141.1 innings . . . As a staff, the Cardinals enter the week with a 3.05 ERA, while limiting opposing hitters to a .257 batting average and just 128 earned runs in 294.0 innings of work . . . Combined, BSU has out-scored its opponents 295-171 this season.
►GOING, GOING, GONE: In addition to leading the Mid-American Conference, the Cardinals entered the week ranked 10th in the nation with a 1.25 home runs-per-game average . . . The Cardinals 55 long balls this season are already 11 better than the previous BSU single season record of 44 set last year and are four shy of the current MAC record of 59 set by the 2010 Kent State team . . . Sophomore left fielder Jennifer Gilbert paces the MAC with 14 home runs this year, which ranked her 23rd nationally based on her 0.32 per-game average . . . Montalto is second in the MAC with 13 home runs and 32nd nationally at 0.30 long balls per game.
►DOUBLING UP: As impressive as the home run total is, the Cardinals are even better when it comes to two-base hits, entering the week ranked second in the nation with a 1.86 doubles per game average . . . Jennifer Gilbert entered the week ranked first in the MAC and third nationally with a 0.36 doubles-per-game average, while Amanda Montalto is second in the league and 11th nationally at 0.34 . . . BSU has collected 82 two-base hits so far in 2012, with the school record standing at 93 set in 2010.
►DON'T FORGET THE TRIPLES: Amanda Montalto and Jennifer Gilbert are tied for the team lead and rank third in the MAC with three triples apiece . . . BSU players have combined for 13 triples this year, including two from freshman second baseman Taylor Cox, and the team entered the week ranked 13th in the nation in triples per game (0.30).
►THE TRIFECTA: The Ball State offense entered the week as the only team in the nation to rank in the top 15 in doubles (second), triples (13th) and home runs (10th) per game . . . BSU is also 12th in batting average (.321), seventh in scoring offense (6.7) and eighth in slugging percentage (.545).
►MONTALTO IN THE RANKINGS: Amanda Montalto enters the weekend as one of the greatest sluggers in MAC history . . . BSU's career leader in home runs (36) and doubles (53), she ranks among the top five in the conference in both categories . . . Akron's Kelli Metzger (1996-99) is the MAC's all-time home runs leader at 57, while Ohio's Jenn Morris (1996-99) is the league's all-time doubles leader with 55 . . . With nine more RBI last week, Montalto ranks second in league annals with her school-record 145 career RBI and trails only Metzger's total of 167 . . . Her 101 career walks are also second in program history and third in league annals.
►"O CANADA": For the past three years, sophomore outfielder Jennifer Gilbert has played in numerous international competitions as part of the Canadian National Team Program . . . This past December, Gilbert (who was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) helped guide the Canadian Junior Women's National Team to a fifth-place showing at the ISF IX Junior Women's World Championship in Cape Town, South Africa (Dec. 6-17) . . . In the event, Gilbert hit .411 with 14 hits in 34 at bats, including a grand slam . . . Gilbert also played for the 2010 Canadian Junior Women's National Team and the 2009 Canadian Women's U16 National Team.
►SCORING MACHINE: Jennifer Gilbert entered the week ranked first in the MAC with 54 runs scored, 10 more than the next closest player in teammate Amanda Montalto . . . Only 29 players in the nation average a run per game this season, with Gilbert ranking seventh among them at 1.23 . . . Gilbert is also the league's RBI leader at 43 and entered the week ranked 37th nationally at 0.98 RBI per game . . . Factoring out 14 RBI for her 14 home runs (so the runs are not counted twice), Gilbert has been directly responsible for 83 of BSU's 295 runs this season, which equates to 28.1 percent of Ball State's scoring offense . . . Montalto is second on the squad accounting for 72 total runs or 24.4 percent of BSU's offense.
►THE STREAK IS ON: Freshman designated player/outfielder Hanne Stuedemann enters Friday's doubleheader at Kent State having reached base safely in each of the past 35 games . . . Stuedemann's, who did not reach base in her first five collegiate games, streak includes reaching base on a hit in 25 games, by a walk eight times and being hit by a pitch twice . . . Jennifer Gilbert had her career-long 25 game streak of safely reaching base snapped in the series opener versus Central Michigan . . . However, she did reach base thanks to an error in the contest.
►WALK THIS WAY: In addition to being the league's top hitting team, the Cardinals have also shown tremendous patience at the plate with a league-leading 170 walks . . . Entering the week, Bowling Grenn is second in the league with 139 walks . . . Amanda Montalto ranks third in the MAC with 28 free passes, while sophomore third baseman Audrey Bickel is sixth (23) . . . Hanne Stuedemann and sophomore first baseman Taylor Rager are tied for seventh (22).
►MAZZAPICA TOPS THE MAC: The Ball State senior right-hander Kim Mazzapica enters the weekend tied for the Mid-American Conference's wins lead with 19 . . . In addition, her 19-3 overall record and .864 winning percentage both lead the league.
►CARDINALS SHOWING THE GLOVE: With BSU ranking in the top 15 nationally in nearly every offensive category, it's easy to forget about the Cardinals' top-notch defense . . . BSU entered the week ranked 44th among the 289 NCAA Division I teams with a 0.968 fielding percentage . . . The Cardinals have also turned a MAC-best 27 double plays and rank second in the nation with a 0.61 double plays-per-game average.
►OVER THE LAST TWO WEEKS: Since last Thursday's doubleheader versus Purdue, the Ball State offense has been firing on all cylinders, connecting for a .367 batting average over the past nine games . . . All 12 Cardinals with an official at bat during the span have recorded at least one hit, with both junior outfielder Hannah Zimmerman and sophomore infielder Lauren Schroeder going a perfect 1-for-1 in pinch hit appearances . . . Alison Mercado paces the squad with a .500 (14-for-28) average during the span, while Amanda Montalto is second at .485 (16-for-33) and Jennifer Gilbert is third at .433 (13-for-30) . . . Of BSU's 97 hits over the last nine games, 41 have been multi-base knocks, including 19 doubles, 18 home runs and four triples.