Softball Suffers Pair of Losses At No. 7 Arizona
TUCSON, Ariz. - - The Ball State softball team dropped both ends of a Tuesday night doubleheader at No. 7 Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium by scores of 16-2 (5 inn) and 12-3 (5 inn).
The Cardinals’ (12-4) three runs in the nightcap were the most the seventh-ranked Wildcats (20-1) have giving up in a game this season, with the previous mark being two versus BSU earlier in the day and three other times during the season. Arizona has won 15 of their 21 games this year by run-rule, having only played six seven-inning games this season.
With a two-run home run in the nightcap, Ball State senior slugger Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) moved into a tie with Oklahoma junior Lauren Chamberlain for the most career home runs among active NCAA Division I players at 62. Gilbert has a MAC-leading six home runs this season, while Chamberlain has posted two so far this year.
Sophomore shortstop Emily Dabkowski (Plainfield, Ind./South Putnam) continued her solid play against one of the nation’s top pitching staffs, racking up a team-high three hits on the day while also scoring a run.
Gilbert, senior third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) and sophomore center fielder Briana Evans (Tulsa, Okla./Union) each finished the day with two hits. Bickel blasted a double in each contest, while Evans went 2-for-2 in the second game with a pair of singles.
Sophomore shortstop Selena Reyna (Houston, Texas/South Houston) belted her first home run of the season in the opener and also sparked the Cardinals’ sixth double play of the season in the nightcap.
On a rough day for Ball State’s pitching staff, sophomore Sammi Cowger (Fenton, Mich./Fenton) turned in an impressive performance in a tough situation, throwing the final three innings of game two and allowing just two hits and three earned runs. Cowger retired all three batters she faced in both the second and fourth innings, and was inches away from getting out of the third inning unscathed on a ball that just cleared the left field wall.
After a busy week in the state of Arizona, which saw Ball State go 5-2 including a win over No. 3 Arizona State, the Cardinals will have a few days to recover before opening its annual spring break trip Tuesday at Jacksonville State (6 pm ET / 5 p.m. CT).
GAME ONE RECAP: No. 7 Arizona 16 – Ball State 2
Ball State got off to an impressive start versus the Wildcats in the top of the first inning, as junior right fielder Loren Cihlar (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles North) and Dabkowski singled to open the game, while Gilbert drew a walk to load the bases. The Cardinals would go on to score the game’s first run when Bickel drew a one-out RBI walk. Unfortunately, a close call at home and a liner to shortstop ended the Ball State threat.
Arizona’s offense took control in the bottom of the frame, scoring seven runs on five hits and two Ball State errors to give the hosts a 7-1 edge.
Reyna led off the second inning with a blast into the left-center field bleachers at Hillenbrand Stadium, forcing an Arizona pitching change. Unfortunately, it was the last run the Cardinals would score as new pitcher Estela Pinon held the Cardinals to just two hits the rest of the game.
The Wildcats would score four runs in both the second and third innings, while adding one more in the fourth to give the game its finals score of 16-2.
GAME TWO RECAP: No. 7 Arizona 12 – Ball State 3
Arizona carried over its heavy hitting in the second game, scoring four runs in the first inning and adding five more with no outs in the second frame. Cowger would then enter the circle in relief and retire the first three batters she faced in the bottom of the second.
The Cardinals rallied for three runs in the top of the third, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 9-3. Evans opened the inning with a single through the right side and would go on to steal second. Two batters later, Evans scored Ball State’s first run of the game when a Dabkowski shot at the Arizona second baseman was misplayed. Gilbert followed with a two-run blast over the center field wall to cut the Wildcats’ lead to six runs.
Unfortunately, Arizona retaliated with a two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the frame on a ball that sailed just out of reach of Gilbert in left field, making the score 12-9.
After a scoreless fourth inning, which saw Cowger retire Arizona in order in the bottom of the inning, the Cardinals threatened again in the fifth as Evans and Cihlar recorded back-to-back singles to open the inning. Unfortunately, the next three Ball State batters were retired, ending the game.