► THIS WEEKEND IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL: The Ball State softball team will make its third attempt to open Mid-American Conference play Friday, when it begins the home portion of its 2014 schedule with a 1 p.m. doubleheader versus Bowling Green at the BSU Softball Complex ... The Cardinals will then welcome Toledo to Muncie for single games Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).
► BONUS EVENT: Friday’s 1 p.m. game versus Bowling Green will be a Charlie’s Crew Rewards Program Bonus Event ... Ball State students can come out to the BSU Softball Complex and swipe their student ID for 300 bonus points ... For more info visit: ballstatesports.com/studentrewards.
► FOLLOW THE ACTION: Ball State fans can follow this weekend’s action with live stats and live audio available at BallStateSports.com ... WCRD 91.3 FM begins its coverage of Ball State softball Friday and will carry all four games this weekend ... Torey Fox, Jake Bartelson and Alexis Williams will cover the action LIVE from the BSU Softball Complex for WCRD ... 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 Friday’s doubleheader versus Bowling Green with an 872-927-4 (.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: From 2009 through last weekend’s MAC action, the Cardinals have proven to be one of the league’s premier programs by racking up an 83-22 (.790) record in league play ... Kent State has the second-best league record during the span at 68-40 (.630).
► 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 Friday’s doubleheader versus Bowling Green with a 360-356-1 (.503) career record, including an 18-12 ledger so far in her first season at Ball State ... Perry’s biggest win to date with the Cardinals 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.
► SCHEDULE UPDATES: The Cardinals have added a 5 p.m. game at Purdue next Wednesday (April 9) ... The April 16 single game versus Indiana has been changed to a doubleheader and will now be played at IU’s Andy Mohr Field starting at 4 p.m.
► SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: Ball State enters the weekend with an 18-12 overall record after suffering an 11-4 loss at No. 23/25 Notre Dame Tuesday ... The Cardinals are the top batting team in the MAC with a .328 average ... Ball State also leads the league in hits (269), doubles (50), triples (9) and home runs (35) ... BSU’s 94 multiple-base hits are 13 more than the next closest team, Central Michigan at 81 ... In fact, BSU’s 50 doubles are more than the multiple-base hit total for seven 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 .404 batting average, while senior third baseman Audrey Bickel is second on the squad and third in the MAC at .380 ... Senior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert enters the weekend as the league leader in slugging percentage (.848), runs scored (31), RBI (37), home runs (11) and total bases (78) ... 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 4.15 ERA over 77.2 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 climbed nine spots to lead the MAC at 61st in the latest NCAA RPI rankings released March 31 ... The Cardinals have played 17 games versus top 100 teams and own a 6-11 record in those games ... BSU’s average RPI loss this season is 32 ... Kent State is second in the MAC with a RPI of 67, followed by Ohio (108), Central Michigan (130) and Akron (139).
► SCOUTING BOWLING GREEN: The Falcons enter Friday’s doubleheader with a 12-17-1 overall record, which includes a 2-2 mark in Mid-American Conference play ... BGSU split a Wednesday twinbill versus Wright State, losing the first game (3-0), before rallying to win the second (6-5) with a pair of seventh-inning runs ... Katie Yoho leads the Falcons at the plate with a .330 average, 19 RBI, 11 runs scored and five home runs ... Erika Stratton is second on the team with a .310 average and 18 RBI ... In the circle, Jamie Kertes owns a 2.26 ERA over 123.2 innings of work ... Over 30 appearances, Kertes has compiled an 8-12 record, two saves and 81 strikeouts ... BGSU is currently batting .230 as a team, while allowing opponents to bat .269 ... Bowling Green holds a 49-38 lead in the all-time series despite the Cardinals collecting five straight wins and victories in 11 of the last 13 meetings ... Last season, Ball State opened MAC play with a doubleheader sweep of the Falcons, winning the first game 4-1 and the second 3-1 at BGSU’s Meserve Field.
► SCOUTING TOLEDO: The Rockets enter the weekend with an 11-20 overall record, but lead the Mid-American Conference West Division with a 3-1 league mark ... Toledo is scheduled to play a Friday doubleheader at Miami before traveling to Ball State for the remainder of the weekend ... In midweek action, the Rockets suffered a 5-2 loss to Detroit Wednesday, a team the Cardinals defeated twice this season ... Jessica Lemieux leads the Rockets and the MAC with a .421 batting average ... She also has a team-high 23 runs scored and 10 RBI this season ... Chandler Rice is second on the team with a .358 batting average ... Emily Anderson is UT’s top pitcher, with a 10-10 record and 2.47 ERA over 133.1 innings of work ... Anderson is second in the league with 134 strikeouts, while issuing just 53 walks ... The Rockets are currently batting .294 as a team, while holding opponents to a .277 average ... Ball State holds a 52-39-1 lead in the all-time series, including 18 consecutive wins ... Last season, the Cardinals swept a March 30 twinbill at Toledo by scores of 10-7 and 14-5, while earning a 10-0 win in MAC Tournament action May 10 ... Toledo’s last victory in the series came by the score of 3-1 on April 4, 2005.
► LEADING THE NATION: Jennifer Gilbert enters the weekend as the NCAA Division I active career leader in RBI (222), runs scored (192), doubles (56) and home runs (67) ... Gilbert’s 222 career RBI are 22 ahead of the next closest player, Alabama’s Kaila Hunt ... Her 67 career home runs are one ahead of Oklahoma junior Lauren Chamberlain, while her 192 career runs scored are three ahead of Arizona State’s Alix Johnson ... Gilbert’s 56 career doubles are also one ahead of Harvard’s Kasey Lange and just four more than her Ball State classmate first baseman Taylor Rager at 52 ... Gilbert also enters the weekend ranked ninth in career slugging percentage (.797), ninth in at bats (654) and seventh in hits (246) among active NCAA Division I players.
► NEARING THE TOP 10: With her 67th career home run at Notre Dame Tuesday, Jennifer Gilbert moved into a tie for 16th on the NCAA Division I career home run list ... Gilbert, who is already the NCAA career home run leader among Canadian-born players, needs just four more home runs to break into the top 10 in NCAA history ... Former UCLA slugger Stacey Nuveman (1997, 99, 2001-02) is the NCAA Division I career home leader with 90 long balls ... Gilbert also enters Friday’s doubleheader ranked 13th in NCAA Division I history with a .797 career slugging percentage.
► 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 its 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 60, Taylor Rager is also quickly climbing BSU’s career offensive charts ... Rager is currently fourth in program history with a .350 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 weekend 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 16th on the league’s career walks chart at 80 ... Bickel has walked eight times this season, while Gilbert ranks third in 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 (83).
► WINNING IN THE CIRCLE: Despite just a year-and-a-half under their belts, sophomore pitchers Kelsey Schifferdecker and Nicole Steinbach enter the weekend as two of the winningest pitchers in program history ... Schifferdecker’s 23 career wins are tied for 13th on Ball State’s career list, while Steinbach’s 21 wins are 16th ... Both are on pace to break into the top 10 by the end of the 2014 season ... Steinbach is also tied for third in BSU annals with five career saves.
► 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.
► Over the last seven games, Audrey Bickel paces the squad in hits (10), RBI (nine) and batting average (.455) ... She provided game-winning RBI at Butler (March 19) and versus UMKC (March 22) ... She blasted her third career grand slam in the win over the Kangaroos, which was her 20th career home run.
► Junior outfielder Hanne Stuedemann is also heating up over the past seven games, ranking second on the squad with a .409 (9-for-22) batting average during the span ... Of her nine hits, two have been home runs while another was a triple ... She has raised her season batting average from .143 to .235 during the run.
► Of Briana Evans’ team-leading 36 hits this season, 19 have been either infield or bunt singles ... Evans is also tied for fifth in the MAC with eight stolen bases this season.
► Briana Evans 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 over her career ... 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 27 of Ball State’s 30 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 11 home runs this season have produced eventual game-winning RBI.
► Taylor Rager entered the week ranked first in the MAC and fifth nationally with 14 doubles this season ... As a team, the Cardinals ranked 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 11 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 collected its 15th double play of the season Tuesday at No. 23 Notre Dame ... The Cardinals entered the week 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 10-6 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.