►THIS WEEKEND IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL: The Ball State softball team opens a four-game Mid-American Conference home stand Friday, when it hosts Eastern Michigan in a 1 p.m. doubleheader at the BSU Softball Complex . . . Central Michigan will then visit Muncie for single games 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.
►SPORTS LINK TV: For the first time in program history, the Ball State softball team will have several of its home games televised thanks to Ball State Sports Link . . . The first and only academic program in the nation where students are totally immersed in sports and electronic media, Ball State Sports Link will produce the April 20 doubleheader versus Eastern Michigan and both games of the Central Michigan series . . . The games will appear live on campus (Cardinal Vision 57) and can be watched free online at http://ballstatesports.com/liveevents . . . In addition, the games will be carried live by both Comcast Muncie (61) and Comcast Indiana . . . Check your local listings for availability in your area.
►CARDINALS ALL-TIME: After a 12-4 victory over in-state rival Indiana Wednesday, the Ball State softball program upped its all-time record to 805-895-4 (.474) 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 192-142 (.575) record at BSU, including a 28-12 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 915-232 (.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 20 wins this season, the Cardinals (6-2 MAC) are tied with Bowling Green (9-3 MAC) for the best winning-percentage in MAC play this season at .750 . . . BSU also owns the best overall record in the league at 28-12 (.700) . . . BSU entered the week ranked 36th in the nation among the 289 NCAA Division I programs with a .692 winning percentage.
►SCOUTING THE EAGLES: Eastern Michigan enters the weekend with a 19-24 (5-7 MAC) record after sweeping a non-conference doubleheader versus Detroit Tuesday . . . EMU won the first game 8-0 (6) and the second 7-1 . . . Jessica Richards leads the Eagles offense with a .343 batting average and 34 runs scored . . . Katy Blaharski is second on the team with a .341 average and 23 runs scored . . . Jenna Ignowski is the Eagles' ace in the circle, with a 10-6 record and a 2.82 ERA . . . Ignowski has struck out 77 batters over 99.1 innings and has held opponents to a .253 batting average . . . Ball State holds a commanding 53-35 lead in the all-time series versus Eastern Michigan including a 2-1 victory in the MAC tournament last season (May 11) . . . The teams also split a regular season doubleheader last year (April 15) in Ypsilanti, with EMU winning the first game 5-3 and BSU taking the nightcap 2-1 . . . The Cardinals have also won the last four games played in Muncie.
►SCOUTING THE CHIPPEWAS: Central Michigan enters the weekend with a 20-19 (5-6 MAC) record after suffering a 10-2 (6) loss at Michigan Tuesday . . . CMU is also slated to play Miami in a Friday doubleheader before coming to Muncie to end the weekend . . . Macy Merchant leads the Chippewas offense with a .384 batting average and nine stolen bases . . . Molly Coldren is second on the team with a .377 average, while she leads the team in runs scored (28), RBI (31) and home runs (8) . . . Kara Dornbos is the Chippewas' ace in the circle, with a 9-11 record and a 2.66 ERA . . . Dornbos has struck out 65 batters over 113.0 innings and has held opponents to a .255 batting average . . . Central Michigan holds a 67-21 advantage in the all-time series after the teams split a regular season doubleheader last season (April 17) in Mount Pleasant . . . CMU won the opener 9-5, while BSU took the nightcap 5-2 . . . Central Michigan also won its last game in Muncie, with an 11-3 (6) victory in the second game of a doubleheader April 9, 2010 . . . The Cardinals won the opener that day 12-8.
►SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: The Cardinals enters the weekend with a 28-12 (6-2 MAC) overall record after a dominating 12-4 win over in-state rival Indiana Wednesday . . . Senior shortstop Alison Mercado paces the Ball State offense with a .417 batting average, while senior catcher/designated player Amanda Montalto is second at .383 . . . As a team, the Cardinals are first in the league with a .320 batting average, including a MAC-best 45 home runs . . . On the mound, senior right-hander Audrey Workman has a 2.96 ERA and an 11-9 record over 137.0 innings of work, while classmate Kim Mazzapica is 17-3 in the circle with a 3.06 ERA over 128.0 innings . . . As a staff, the Cardinals enter the week with a 3.00 ERA, while limiting opposing hitters to a .254 batting average and just 114 earned runs in 266.0 innings of work . . . Combined, BSU has out-scored its opponents 263-153 this season.
►GOING, GOING, GONE: In addition to leading the Mid-American Conference, the Cardinals entered the week ranked 16th in the nation with a 1.13 home runs per game average . . . In Wednesday's win over Indiana, Amanda Montalto blasted her 10th long ball of the season to give BSU a new team single-season record of 45 home runs . . . The previous mark was 44 set last year . . . Prior to Wednesday's game, sophomore left fielder Jennifer Gilbert paced the MAC with 11 home runs this year, which ranked her 41st nationally based on her 0.28 per-game average . . . Montalto was second in the MAC with nine home runs and 82nd nationally at 0.23 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 1.87 doubles per game average . . . The Cardinals tallied four more doubles (two each from Alison Mercado and sophomore first baseman Taylor Rager) in Wednesday's win over Indiana to move its season average to 1.93 . . . Jennifer Gilbert entered the week ranked first nationally with a 0.41 doubles-per-game average, while Amanda Montalto was second in the league and ninth nationally at 0.36 . . . BSU has collected 77 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 second 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 ninth in the nation in triples per game (0.33).
►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 (33) and doubles (52), she ranks second in both categories in MAC history . . . 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 three more RBI Wednesday versus Indiana, Montalto ranks second in league annals with her school-record 139 career RBI and trails only Metzger's total of 167 . . . Her 99 career walks are also second in both program and league history.
►"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.
►HEATING UP: Over the last 20 games, Jennifer Gilbert has been the hottest batter on the club with a .478 batting average . . . She has recorded 33 hits during the span, including 10 doubles, eight home runs and three triples . . . Her 31 runs scored, 24 RBI, 1.058 slugging percentage and .556 on base percentage are also a team-highs during the span.
►SCORING MACHINE: Jennifer Gilbert entered the week as the only player in the MAC and one of just 31 players nationally to average over a run per game this season, ranking sixth nationally at 1.21 . . . Including her run scored Wednesday versus Indiana, Gilbert has scored 48 runs for a 1.20 average . . . Gilbert is also the league's RBI leader at 39 and entered the week ranked 33rd nationally at 1.00 RBI per game . . . Factoring out 11 RBI for her 11 home runs (so the runs are not counted twice), Gilbert has been directly responsible for 76 of BSU's 263 runs this season, which equates to 28.9 percent of Ball State's scoring offense.
►THE STREAK IS ON: Freshman designated player/outfielder Hanne Stuedemann enters Friday's doubleheader versus Eastern Michigan having reached base safely in each of the past 31 games, while Jennifer Gilbert is right behind at 23 games . . . Stuedemann's, who did not reach base in her first five collegiate games, streak includes reaching base on a hit in 23 games, by a walk six times and being hit by a pitch twice . . . Gilbert's career-long streak includes 19 games with a hit, three games with a walk and one game by being hit by a pitch.
►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 154 walks . . . Entering the week, Miami and Central Michigan were tied for second in the league with 121 walks . . . Amanda Montalto ranked second in the MAC with 26 free passes, while sophomore third baseman Audrey Bickel was fifth (21) and Hanne Stuedemann was seventh (20).
►MAZZAPICA TOPS THE MAC: The Ball State senior right-hander Kim Mazzapica enters the weekend as the Mid-American Conference's wins leader with 17 . . . In addition, her 17-3 overall record and .850 winning percentage both lead the league.
►CARDINALS SHOWING THE GLOVE: With BSU ranking in the top 25 nationally in nearly every offensive category, including its .320 team batting average, it's easy to forget about the Cardinals' top-notch defense . . . BSU entered the week ranked 42nd among the 289 NCAA Division I teams with a 0.968 fielding percentage . . . The Cardinals have also turned a MAC-best 25 double plays and rank second in the nation with a 0.64 double plays-per-game average.
►OVER THE LAST WEEK: Since last Thursday's doubleheader versus Purdue, the Ball State offense has been firing on all cylinders, connecting for a .392 batting average over the past five 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 . . . Of BSU's 62 hits over the last five games, 26 have been multi-base knocks, including 14 doubles, eight home runs and four triples.