MUNCIE, Ind. - - All the Ball State softball team needed was one swing of the bat to score a 4-0 Mid-American Conference victory over Central Michigan Saturday afternoon at the BSU Softball Complex.
With a win in its third consecutive game broadcast live regionally by Ball State Sports Link, the Cardinals improve to 31-12 (9-2 MAC) while dropping the Chippewas to 21-21 (6-8 MAC).
With bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the first, sophomore third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) provided all the run support senior pitcher Kim Mazzapica (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake) would need by blasting her first career grand slam over the right center field wall.
With the wind blowing in at the BSU Softball complex Saturday, it looked like the Cardinals streak of five consecutive games with at least one home run was in jeopardy, but Bickel answered the call with her eighth blast of the season to up the streak to six.
In addition, the Cardinals have now hit a grand slam in each of the last three games, while extending their single-season team home run record to 53.
In the circle, Mazzapica kept the CMU hitters off balance all game as she picked up her MAC-leading 19th victory of the season, while improving her overall record to 19-3. In earning her third complete game shutout of the year, Mazzapica held the Chippewas to just seven hits, while recording a strikeout.
Overall, the Cardinals tallied five hits in the contest with two coming from freshman second baseman Taylor Cox (Garden Grove, Calif./Pacifica). Senior designated player Amanda Montalto (Las Vegas, Nev./Palo Verde) and senior shortstop Alison Mercado (Perris, Calif./Arizona Western College) also recorded a hit apiece.
After Mazzapica worked her way out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the first by inducing an inning-ending fielder's choice, the Cardinals offense came alive in the bottom of the frame. Freshman right fielder Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) led off with a walk and advanced to second when sophomore left fielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) reached base on an error.
Montalto would draw BSU's second walk of the inning to load the bases for what turned out to be a game-winning grand slam for Bickel.
From there, the game was a pitchers' duel, with neither offense connecting for another run. The Ball State defense would add to its highlight reel in the top of the sixth, however, turning in a spectacular 5-4-3 inning-ending double play. BSU leads the MAC and ranks second in the nation with 27 twin killings this season.
Kara Dornbos (9-13) suffered the loss for Central Michigan, despite holding the league's top offense to five hits and four runs (three earned).
The Ball State softball team concludes its weekend series with Central Michigan tomorrow (Sunday) with a 1 p.m. first pitch at the BSU Softball Complex. Once again, the games will be broadcast live by Ball State Sports Link on Comcast Muncie, Comcast Indiana and online free of charge at BallStateSports.com.