DEKALB, Ill. - - After losing the first game 2-0, the Ball State softball team rallied for a doubleheader split at Northern Illinois Friday afternoon by posting a 7-4 victory in the nightcap at Mary M. Bell Field.
With the spilt, the Cardinals enter Saturday’s 2 pm doubleheader at Western Michigan with a 21-14 overall record, including a 2-2 ledger in Mid-American Conference play. The Huskies move to 16-19 (4-4 MAC) with the split.
“Nicole did an excellent job in the first game,” Ball State head coach Tyra Perry said. “She stayed in control the entire time and pitched a great game. Unfortunately, we were not able to come up with a timely hit and left quite a few runners on base. I thought we did well at the plate in the second game, and were able to score early and keep pressure on NIU. The Huskies made some great defense plays in the later innings which help give them some momentum to eventually tie the game. We did not panic, however, and our offense came through in the end.”
Sophomore second baseman Emily Dabkowski (Plainfield, Ind./South Putnam) came up with the biggest hit of the day, blasting a two-out grand slam over the left-center field wall in the seventh inning of the second game to secure Ball State’s victory. It was Dabkowski’s fifth home run of the season and her first career grand slam.
“I am really proud of Emily for her final at bat,” Perry continued. “She did an awesome job at the plate, had a quality at bat, was aggressive and got her pitch for what proved to be a game-winning grand slam.”
Senior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) also blasted a home run in the second game, with a leadoff shot to left field in the third inning. It was her 14th long ball of the season and the 70th of her career. She is now one home run shy of breaking into the top 10 on the NCAA Division I career home run list.
In addition to the two home runs, the Cardinals collected four doubles in the nightcap with two each coming from senior first baseman Taylor Rager (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) and sophomore shortstop Selena Reyna (Houston, Texas/South Houston). Rager now has a MAC-leading 16 doubles on the season and raised her career total to 54 which is fourth among all active NCAA Division I players. Gilbert is first on the list with 57 career doubles, including one in the opening game.
GAME ONE RECAP: Northern Illinois 2 – Ball State 0
Despite a strong pitching performance from sophomore Nicole Steinbach (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean), the Cardinals suffered a 2-0 setback in Friday’s opener versus Northern Illinois. Over six innings of work, Steinbach limited the Huskies to four hits and two runs, while striking out four batters.
Unfortunately, NIU’s Jessica Sturm was able to lockdown the Ball State offense, holding the Cardinals to just two hits in a complete game victory.
Northern Illinois scored the game’s first run on a one-out RBI single from Bryanna Phelan in the third, while adding an insurance run in the fourth on a RBI double from Sturm.
GAME TWO RECAP: Ball State 7 – Northern Illinois 4
After struggling offensively in the opener, the Cardinals rallied for 11 hits and seven runs in the nightcap, including three runs (one earned) and four hits off Sturm over the first 2.2 innings.
With one out in the top of the first, Reyna doubled to right field and advanced to second on a two-out NIU error which allowed senior third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) reach third. Rager followed with a two-run double to left-center field, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 edge.
Gilbert would extend the Ball State lead to 3-0 with a leadoff home run in the third inning. After a scoreless fourth, the Huskies would strike for one run in the fifth and two runs in the sixth to even the score.
NIU looked to be sailing through the seventh inning, retiring the first two Ball State batters in Gilbert and Bickel. However, a five-pitch walk to Rager and a single to center field from sophomore designated player Sammi Cowger (Fenton, Mich./Fenton) gave BSU a pair of base runners. Freshman catcher Shelbie Scamihorn (Terre Haute, Ind./South Vigo) followed by drawing a walk of her own to load the bases for Dabkowski, who came through with what proved to be a game-winning grand slam.
The Huskies would get one run back in the bottom of the inning, thanks to a two-out RBI double from Emily Naegele. However, sophomore pitcher Kelsey Schifferdecker (Belton, Mo./Belton) would force the next batter to groundout to end the game.
In picking up her ninth pitching win of the season, Schifferdecker held the NIU offense to eight hits and four runs over seven innings of work. She also struck out one Huskie batter.
For the most up-to-date news on Ball State softball, follow the team on Twitter: @BallStateSB and @TyraPerry13/ Instagram: ballstatesb / Facebook: BallStateSoftball
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