AKRON, Ohio - - The top-seeded Ball State softball team opened play in the 2013 Mid-American Conference Softball Tournament with a 3-1 setback to No. 4 seed Northern Illinois Thursday evening at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio.
With the loss, the Cardinals will play No. 8 seed Toledo in Friday’s 11 a.m. elimination game back at Firestone Stadium.
Ball State will look to take a page from Miami’s playbook last season, as the RedHawks dropped their opening-round contest in the tournament before rallying off wins in the next five games to win the event.
Two-time defending MAC Player of the Year Jennifer Gilbert provided the Cardinals’ lone run with a leadoff solo home run, her 22nd of the season, in the bottom of the fourth inning. She also drew two walks in the contest.
Overall, the Huskies limited the Cardinals to just three hits with sophomore designated player Loren Cihlar posting a two-out double in the fifth and freshman shortstop Selena Reyna adding a one-out single in the seventh.
Despite a solid outing, MAC Freshman of the Year Nicole Steinbach (14-9) suffered the loss in the circle by allowing seven hits and three runs, just one of which was earned, over seven innings. She would also strikeout three batters.
Emily Norton would shut the Ball State offense down in the circle for the Huskies, improving to 15-15 by allowing just three hits and one run in a complete game victory.
The Huskies capitalized on a pair of early errors by the Ball State defense to post the game’s first run in the top of the first inning.
With Steinbach dealing in the circle, Gilbert would tie the game in the bottom of the fourth with her solo shot to left field.
Unfortunately, with two outs and runners at first and second in the top of the seventh, Shelby Miller would single up the middle to drive in what proved to be the game-winning run, while an errant throw into third base allowed a second run to score.
After a one-out single by Reyna in the top of bottom of the seventh gave the Cardinals hope, Norton would respond by retiring the next two batters to end the game.