Softball Battles For MAC Title This Weekend
►WRAPPING IT UP: The Ball State softball team concludes the 2012 regular season this weekend when it hosts Toledo and Bowling Green . . . The Cardinals and Rockets square off in a 1 p.m. doubleheader Friday, while BSU plays single games versus the Falcons 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, while Ball State Sports Link Radio (WCRD 91.3 FM) is scheduled to broadcast Friday's doubleheader versus Toledo live over the airwaves and online . . . Fans can also get half-inning updates by following the team on Twitter @BallStSoftball.
►THREE FOR THE TITLE: With wins in three of its four games this weekend, the Ball State softball team will secure its third Mid-American Conference regular season title in the past four years . . . The Cardinals enter the week with a 13-3 (.813) MAC record with Bowling Green (14-4 / .778) and Miami (13-5 / .722) both in the title hunt . . . In addition to playing the Cardinals, Bowling Green opens the weekend with a Friday doubleheader at Miami . . . Given this weekend's match-ups, the Cardinals could win the title under several other scenarios, but winning at least three of four games will secure the crown.
►A LOCK IN THE TOP FOUR: With its 13-3 MAC record, the Ball State softball team has already secured a berth into the 2012 MAC Tournament which has a new format this season . . . The top eight teams, regardless of division, qualify for the event and will be seeded 1-8 based on conference winning percentage . . . The Cardinals have also locked up a top four seed thanks to its record so far and will be guaranteed at least a one-game bye . . . The tournament opens with games versus the four lowest seeds (5v8 and 6v7) with the winner advancing to battle either seed No. 3 or No. 4 . . . The winner of those games will face either seed No. 1 or No. 2 on the second day of the tournament . . . Click the link above for a complete tournament schedule and bracket.
►CARDINALS ALL-TIME: After posting a 3-1 record last weekend, the Ball State softball program upped its all-time record to 812-896-4 (.475) 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 199-143 (.582) record at BSU, including a 35-13 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 922-233 (.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 both 20 and 30 wins this season, the Cardinals enter the week with a league-best 35-13 (.729) overall record and are currently first in the MAC with a 13-3 (.813) conference mark . . . BSU entered the week ranked 25th in the nation among the 289 NCAA Division I programs with a .729 winning percentage.
►SCOUTING THE ROCKETS: Toledo enters Friday's doubleheader with an 18-32 (8-10 MAC) record after going 3-1 in league action last weekend . . . The Rockets split a Friday doubleheader versus Western Michigan winning the first 2-1 (8) and dropping the second 11-3 (6) . . . UT would then sweep a twinbill Sunday versus Northern Illinois by scores of 10-0 (5) and 4-3 . . . Lindsey Tobias leads the Toledo offense with a .349 batting average, 36 RBI and 28 runs scored . . . Brooke Gates is second on the team with a .342 average and has drawn a team-high 12 walks . . . Casi Rohr is UT's ace in the circle, with a 12-20 record and a 5.24 ERA . . . Rohr has struck out 112 batters over 192.1 innings and has held opponents to a .261 batting average . . . Ball State holds a 47-39-1 lead in the all-time series, including 12 consecutive wins . . . Toledo has not won a game in the series since 2005 . . . Last season, the Cardinals scored 7-1 and 13-3 (5) victories in Toledo on April 29.
►SCOUTING THE FALCONS: Bowling Green enters the weekend with a 34-17 (14-4 MAC) record and are only half a game behind the Cardinals in the league standings . . . BGSU will play a doubleheader at Miami Friday, before traveling to Muncie to take on the Cardinals in a battle for the league title Saturday and Sunday . . . Bowling Green posted a 5-1 record last week, starting with a Monday DH sweep of Oakland by identical 5-0 scores . . . In MAC action, BGSU dropped the first game of a Friday doubleheader versus Northern Illinois 4-3, before winning the second 15-2 (5) . . . The Falcons would go on to sweep a Sunday twinbill at Western Michigan by scores of 4-0 and 2-1 . . . Rachel Proehl leads the Bowling Green offense with a .320 batting average and is tied for the team lead with two triples . . . Katie Yoho is second on the team with a .315 average and is one of three Falcons with 10 home runs . . . Bowling Green has a pair of 16-game winners in the circle in Paris Imholz and Jamie Kertes . . . Imholz is 16-8 with a 1.75 ERA and 77 strikeouts over 163.2 innings . . . Kertes is 16-9 with a 2.01 ERA and 128 strikeouts over 167.0 innings . . . BGSU holds a 49-33 lead in the all-time series against the Cardinals, including a pair of one-run, extra-inning wins last season . . . The Falcons scored a 7-6, 12-inning victory April 30, followed by a 5-4, 14-inning win May 1.
►SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: The Cardinals enter Friday's doubleheader against Toledo with a 35-13 (13-3 MAC) overall record after posting a 3-1 mark last week . . . Senior catcher/designated player Amanda Montalto leads the league and ranks 46th nationally with a .406 batting average, while senior shortstop Alison Mercado is second on the squad with a .388 average . . . As a team, the Cardinals are first in the league and 11th nationally with a .320 batting average, including a MAC single-season record 62 home runs . . . In the circle, senior right-hander Audrey Workman has a 3.10 ERA, a 14-10 record and 117 strikeouts over 162.2 innings of work, while classmate Kim Mazzapica is 21-3 with a 3.29 ERA and 71 strikeouts over 155.1 innings . . . As a staff, the Cardinals enter the week with a 3.18 ERA, while limiting opposing hitters to a .260 batting average and just 145 earned runs in 319.0 innings of work . . . Combined, BSU has out-scored its opponents 328-188 this season.
►GOING, GOING, GONE: In addition to leading the Mid-American Conference, the Cardinals entered the week ranked ninth in the nation with a 1.29 home runs-per-game average . . . The Cardinals 62 long balls this season are already 18 better than the previous BSU single season record of 44 set last year and three better than the previous MAC record of 59 set by the 2010 Kent State team . . . Sophomore left fielder Jennifer Gilbert paces the MAC with 16 home runs this year, which ranked her 16th nationally based on her 0.33 per-game average . . . Montalto is second in the MAC with 14 home runs and 36th nationally at 0.29 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 1.88 doubles per game average . . . Jennifer Gilbert entered the week ranked first in the MAC and third nationally with a 0.38 doubles-per-game average, while Amanda Montalto is second in the league and 13th nationally at 0.33 . . . BSU has collected 90 two-base hits so far in 2012, with the school record standing at 93 set in 2010.
►DON'T FORGET THE TRIPLES: After collecting a pair of triples last week, the Cardinals also broke into the top 10 nationally in triples per game, ranking ninth at 0.31 . . . Jennifer Gilbert is tied for the MAC lead and ranks 21st in the country with four triples, while Amanda Montalto is second on the squad and fourth in the MAC with three triples.
►THE TRIFECTA: The Ball State offense entered the week as the only team in the nation to rank in the top 10 in doubles (second), triples (ninth) and home runs (ninth) per game . . . BSU is also 11th in batting average (.320), seventh in scoring offense (6.83) and sixth in slugging percentage (.550).
►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 (37) and doubles (54), she ranks among the top five in the conference in both categories . . . 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 five more RBI last week, Montalto ranks second in league annals with her school-record 150 career RBI and trails only Metzger's total of 167 . . . Her 102 career walks are also second in program history and third in league annals.
►"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.
►SCORING MACHINE: Jennifer Gilbert enters the week ranked first in the MAC with 59 runs scored, 11 more than the next closest player in teammate Amanda Montalto . . . Only 28 players in the nation average over a run per game, with Gilbert ranking fifth among them at 1.23 . . . Gilbert is also the league's RBI leader at 50 and entered the week ranked 25th nationally at 1.04 RBI per game . . . Factoring out 16 RBI for her 16 home runs (so the runs are not counted twice), Gilbert has been directly responsible for 93 of BSU's 328 runs this season, which equates to 28.4 percent of Ball State's scoring offense.
►THE STREAK IS ON: Freshman designated player/outfielder Hanne Stuedemann enters Friday's doubleheader versus Toledo having reached base safely in each of the past 39 games . . . After failing to reach base safely in her first five collegiate games, Stuedemann's streak includes reaching base on a hit in 29 games, by a walk eight times and being hit by a pitch twice.
►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 184 walks . . . Entering the week, Bowling Green was second in the league with 159 walks . . . Amanda Montalto ranks fifth in the MAC with 28 free passes, while sophomore third baseman Audrey Bickel, Hanne Stuedemann and sophomore first baseman Taylor Rager are tied for sixth with 24 each.
►MAZZAPICA TOPS THE MAC: Ball State senior right-hander Kim Mazzapica enters the weekend ranked second in the MAC with 21 wins this season . . . Her 21-3 overall record and .875 winning percentage both lead the league, and she is the only regular starter with an unblemished conference record at 9-0.
►CARDINALS SHOWING THE GLOVE: With BSU ranking in the top 10 nationally in nearly every offensive category, 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 0.969 fielding percentage . . . The Cardinals have also turned a MAC-best 30 double plays and rank first in the nation with a 0.63 double plays-per-game average.
►IN A PINCH: Sophomore infielder Lauren Schroeder made the most of her two pinch hit appearances last weekend at Buffalo, collecting her first two career home runs . . . Schroeder's first blast was a three-run, game-winning shot with two outs in the sixth inning Saturday, which also happened to be her 20th birthday . . . On Sunday, she belted a two-run blast in the fourth to give BSU a 6-0 edge.