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Softball Tops Miami 7-4 To Open MAC Championship
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   AKRON, Ohio - - Senior pinch hitter Lauren Schroeder (Greenfield, Ind./New Palestine) blasted a three-run double to the center field wall to help the Ball State softball team earn a 7-4 victory over Miami Wednesday afternoon in the Cardinals’ opening game of the 2014 Mid-American Conference Softball Championship.
 
   The top-seeded Cardinals, who improve to 33-17 on the year with the win, will battle No. 5 seed Ohio in tomorrow’s 1:30 p.m. game at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio.
 
   “I am really proud of the team,” Ball State head coach Tyra Perry said. “I thought we played a great team game, with everyone making a contribution. I am especially proud of the performance Nicole had in the circle. She started off a little slow, but stayed strong, steady and brought us across the finish line. Being an offensive minded person, I also loved Lauren Schroeder’s performance today. She was clutch as usual. She is one of those players who doesn’t care about the situation, about when her number is called. She comes in ready to go and came up big for us today.”
 
   With Ball State leading 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Schroeder stepped into the batter’s box looking to give the Cardinals a couple more insurance runs. She delivered by driving a 2-2 pitch to the temporary fence in center field to clear the bases. The hit proved to be the game-decider, as Miami (22-27) posted two runs in the top of the seventh and ultimately stranded the bases loaded.
 
   In addition to Schroeder’s clutch performance, sophomore center fielder Briana Evans (Tulsa, Okla./Union) moved to the top of the lineup for today’s game and came through with three infield singles and two runs scored. Senior first baseman Taylor Rager (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) also tallied three hits in the game, which saw Ball State out-hit Miami 12-9.
 
    After Miami loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first inning, sophomore pitcher Nicole Steinbach (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean) battled back to strike out the next two batters and end the RedHawks threat.
 
   Ball State countered by loading the bases in the home half of the inning. Evans started the frame by singling to the pitcher, while junior right fielder Loren Cihlar (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles North) reached first on a bunt single. After the first out, Rager collected an infield single of her own to load the bases. Senior third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) followed with a chopper over the Miami third basemen’s head to give Ball State a 2-0 lead.
 
   The Cardinals extended their lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the second, as sophomore shortstop Selena Reyna (Houston, Texas/South Houston) opened the inning with a single to second. Reyna advance to second on a sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a groundout and went on to score on a Miami error.
 
   After two scoreless innings, Miami cut the Ball State edge to 3-2 with a two-run fifth inning. With bases loaded and one out, Jenna Modic doubled to left field bringing home the RedHawks’ first two runs of the game.
 
   The score remained 3-2 until the bottom of the sixth, when Ball State looked to seal the victory with a four-run performance. Sophomore designated player Sammi Cowger (Fenton, Mich./Fenton) opened the inning with a single up the middle, while freshman pinch runner Amanda Arnett (Monroe, Mich./Monroe) moved to second on sacrifice bunt. Reyna then doubled to left-center field to bring home the first run of the inning.
 
   Junior pinch hitter Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) followed with a walk, and after a Miami pitching change, Evans collected her third infield single of the contest to load the bases. Perry then turned to the bench again, bringing up Schroeder who answered the call with what proved to be a game-winning three-run double.
 
   Miami was able to score two runs in the top of the seventh, thanks to a sacrifice fly from Allie Larrabee and a two-out bases-loaded single from Ramy Edwards. However, the RedHawks would strand bases loaded, as a grounder to sophomore second baseman Emily Dabkowski (Plainfield, Ind./South Putnam) ended the game.
 
   Steinbach picked up the win in the circle for the Cardinals, improving to 15-10 on the year after holding Miami to nine hits and four runs, only two of which were earned, over seven innings of work. She also struck out five batters in the contest.
 
   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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