MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State softball team completed a two-game series sweep of Central Michigan with a thrilling 9-6 come-from-behind victory Sunday afternoon at the BSU Softball Complex.
With the win, the Cardinals run their overall record to 32-12, including a league-best 10-2 mark in Mid-American Conference play. The Chippewas fall to 21-22 (6-9 MAC) with the loss.
While Ball State did blast a pair of home runs in the game, it was the team's small ball play in the bottom of the fifth that led to three runs and the eventual victory.
The Cardinals extended their home run streak to seven consecutive games thanks to blasts from senior catcher Amanda Montalto (Las Vegas, Nev./Palo Verde) and sophomore left fielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney). Gilbert now leads the league with 14 home runs, while Montalto is one behind at 13. Gilbert just missed two more long balls, as winds blowing in at a steady 25 miles-per-hour kept a couple more shots inside the park.
Montalto would finish the game a perfect 3-for-3 from the plate, raising her season batting average to .406. She also scored three runs, while driving in two and drawing a walk. Junior center fielder Amanda Carpenter (Santee, Calif./Santana) also had a solid game in the batter's box, going 2-for-3 including a two-run double.
After being shutout in the series opener, a two-run homer to left field from Molly Coldren gave the guests a quick 2-0 advantage in the top of the first.
However, the Cardinals responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame to pull ahead 3-2. Much like Friday's game, BSU quickly loaded the bases thanks to walks to freshman designated player Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) and sophomore first baseman Taylor Rager (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) surrounding a Montalto single.
Sophomore third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) nearly blasted her second first inning grand slam in as many days, taking an RBI single off the top of the left-center field wall to drive in BSU's first run. Carpenter followed with a two-run double to right, making the score 3-2.
After Central Michigan posted four runs in the top of second to reclaim a 6-3 lead, Montalto blasted a two-run shot over the right field wall to get BSU back within one at 6-5.
The score remained 6-5 until the bottom of the fifth, when the Cardinals were able to manufacture three runs to take an 8-6 lead. Montalto walked to lead off the frame, while singles from Rager and Carpenter loaded the bases. After a CMU pitching change, freshman right fielder Loren Cihlar (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles North) drove in the tying run with an infield single.
The Cardinals go-ahead run came when sophomore pinch runner Julie Cortez (Colorado Springs, Colo./Chaparrel) scored on a wild pitch. BSU added an insurance run moments later thanks to an RBI groundout from freshman second baseman Taylor Cox (Garden Grove, Calif./Pacifica).
CMU looked poised to rally in the top of the sixth, putting a pair of runners on, but an inning-ending strikeout from senior pitcher Audrey Workman (Wickenburg, Ariz./Yavapai College) kept the guests off the scoreboard in the frame.
The Cardinals added one more insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, when Gilbert was able to finally best the wind with her 14th long ball of the year.
Central Michigan recorded back-to-back singles to lead off the seventh, but back-to-back strikeouts from Workman brought the BSU within one out of the victory. After CMU loaded the bases, Workman induced a game-ending popup to secure the Cardinals' victory.
Workman picked up her 13th win of the season, improving to 13-9, by limiting the Chippewas to six runs on eight hits over seven innings. She would also strikeout six batters.
Central Michigan's Chelsea Sundberg was handed the loss, falling to 8-6 after allowing eight runs on seven hits over 4.1 innings of work.
The Ball State softball team returns to action Friday, when it travels to Kent State for a 1 p.m. doubleheader versus the Golden Flashes.