► THIS WEEK IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL: The Ball State softball team returns to action Wednesday, when it travels to Purdue for a 5 p.m. first pitch ... The Cardinals will then embark on their final regular season MAC road trip when they travel to Northern Illinois for a Friday doubleheader (2 pm ET /1 pm CT) and Western Michigan for single games Saturday (2 pm) and Sunday (1 pm).
► FOLLOW THE ACTION: Ball State fans can follow this week’s action with live stats available at BallStateSports.com ... Purdue Radio will carry Wednesday’s game live and free at: http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/purdue.portal ... Torey Fox will be back to cover the weekend’s MAC action for WCRD 91.3 FM, with the games also being webcast for free on BallStateSports.com and available through both the WCRD and TuneIn Radio apps on your smart devices ... Fans can also get regular updates by following the team on Twitter: @BallStateSB - Instagram: ballstatesb - Facebook: BallStateSoftball
► CARDINALS ALL-TIME: The Ball State softball program enters Wednesday’s game at Purdue with an 873-928-4 (.485) all-time record in 39-plus seasons of play ... Established as a varsity program in 1975, Ball State has won four Mid-American Conference regular season titles (2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013), two MAC Tournament championships (1998 and 2010) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament twice (1998 and 2010).
► IN THE MAC PART 1: The Ball State softball team is 356-376-1 (.486) all-time in Mid-American Conference action ... The Cardinals best two seasons, based on winning percentage, came in 2009 and 2013 when BSU went 18-3 (.857) ... BSU has claimed four (2009, 2010, 2012 & 2013) of the last five MAC Regular Season titles and won the 1998 and 2010 MAC Tournaments to earn the only two NCAA Regional berths in program history.
► IN THE MAC PART 2: From 2009 through last weekend’s MAC action, the Cardinals have proven to be one of the league’s premier programs by racking up an 84-23 (.785) record in league play ... Kent State has the second-best league record during the span at 70-40 (.636).
► HEAD COACH TYRA PERRY: A two-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year (2009 & 2013), Tyra Perry was named the eighth head coach in Ball State softball history Aug. 6, 2013 ... Perry enters Wednesday game at Purdue with a 361-357-1 (.503) career record, including a 19-13 ledger so far in her first season at Ball State ... Perry’s biggest win to date with the Cardinals was a 3-0 victory at then-No. 3 Arizona State (March 2) ... Prior to coming to Ball State, Perry had six-year head coaching stints at both Western Kentucky (2008-13) and Birmingham-Southern (2002-07) ... In 2013, Perry guided WKU to the program’s first-ever NCAA Regional appearance and to a final ranking of 26th in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), the highest final ranking in program history ... The Lady Toppers also posted the program’s first 40-plus win season (43-18) under Perry’s tutelage in 2013, and earned its first SBC regular season title with a 20-3 league record.
► SCHEDULE UPDATE: The April 16 single game versus Indiana has been changed to a doubleheader and will now be played at IU’s Andy Mohr Field starting at 4 p.m.
► SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: Ball State enters Wednesday’s game at Purdue with a 19-13 overall record after opening MAC play with a weekend series split versus Toledo ... BSU won Saturday’s contest, 8-1, before dropping Sunday’s game, 6-4 ... The Cardinals are the top batting team in the MAC with a .325 average ... Ball State also leads the league in hits (285), doubles (51) and home runs (36) ... BSU’s 97 multiple-base hits are 13 more than the next closest team, Central Michigan at 84 ... Individually, sophomore center fielder Briana Evans leads the Ball State offense and ranks second in the MAC with a .404 batting average, while senior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert is second on the squad and fourth in the league at .381 ... Gilbert also enters the week as the league leader in on base percentage (.483), slugging percentage (.876), runs scored (33), RBI (40), home runs (11) and total bases (85) ... In the circle, sophomore Kelsey Schifferdecker owns an 8-6 record and threw the Cardinals’ first complete game shutout of the season versus George Mason (Feb. 16) ... Schifferdecker has a team-leading 3.93 ERA over 83.2 innings of work and has struck out 44 batters.
► RPI UPDATE: Based on the strength of its 19-13 record entering the week, the Ball State softball team is ranked 68th in the latest NCAA RPI rankings released April 7 ... The Cardinals have played 17 games versus top 100 teams and own a 5-12 record in those games ... BSU’s average RPI loss this season is 50 ... Kent State is the highest-ranked MAC team at 50th, followed by Ball State.
► SCOUTING PURDUE (RPI - 80): The Boilermakers enter the week with a 20-18-1 overall record, including a 7-2 mark in Big Ten action ... Last weekend, Purdue swept a Saturday doubleheader versus Indiana by identical 4-1 scores, before suffering a 5-2 loss to the Hoosiers Sunday ... Andie Varsho leads Purdue with a .459 batting average, 13 doubles and 34 runs scored ... Danielle Fletcher is second on the squad with a .383 average and has a team-high 32 RBI ... In the circle, Lilly Fecho has a 14-10 record and a 2.61 ERA over 147.2 innings of work ... She has struck out 145 batters while issuing just 42 walks ... Purdue is batting .312 as a team, while holding opponents to a .251 average ... The Boilermakers have out-scored their opponents 183-to-133 this season ... Purdue holds an 18-3 lead in the all-time series after the teams split an April 12, 2012 doubleheader ... The Cardinals won the first game, 9-7, at the BSU Softball Complex, while Purdue rebounded for an 8-6 nightcap win.
► SCOUTING NORTHERN ILLINOIS (RPI - 163): The Huskies enter Friday’s doubleheader versus Ball State with a 15-18 overall record, including a 3-3 mark in Mid-American Conference play ... NIU opened the week by dropping both ends of a Tuesday doubleheader at Valparaiso by scores of 8-6 and 4-3 ... Kayti Grable leads the Huskies with a .381 batting average and six home runs ... Jessica Sturm is a dual threat for NIU, ranking second on the squad in batting average (.371) and she is also the team’s top starting pitcher ... Sturm owns a 9-9 record in the circle, with a 2.87 ERA and 28 strikeouts over 95.0 innings of work ... NIU is batting .309 as a team, while allowing opponents to hit .310 ... The Huskies do hold a slim 169-to-165 edge in runs scored over its opponents ... Northern Illinois owns a 38-25 advantage in the all-time series, including a pair of wins over Ball State in the 2013 MAC Tournament ... Ball State opened the tournament with a 3-1 loss to the Huskies (May 9), before being eliminated two days later thanks to a 3-2 NIU victory (May 11) ... The Cardinals swept a April 5, 2013 regular season doubleheader in Muncie by scores of 9-2 and 5-3.
► SCOUTING WESTERN MICHIGAN (RPI - 230): The Broncos enter the weekend with an 11-24 overall record, including a 2-4 MAC mark ... WMU opened the week with an 8-0 (5 inn.) loss at No. 5 Michigan Tuesday and will play a Friday twinbill versus Miami before closing out the weekend versus Ball State ... In league action last weekend, the Broncos lost a pair of games at Northern Illinois by scores of 10-1 (5 inn.) and 6-1 ... Melissa Palmer paces the WMU offense with a .348 batting average and has scored a team-best 21 runs ... Jenny Rohn is second on the team with a .318 average and has a team-best eight doubles ... Allyson Kus has seen the bulk of the action in the circle for Western Michigan, having thrown 142.1 innings ... Kus has a 3.98 ERA and a 9-13 record with two saves ... WMU is batting .243 as a team, while allowing opponents to bat .320 ... The Broncos have been out-scored 175-to-108 this season ... Western Michigan holds a 60-47 advantage in the all-time series despite the Cardinals winning both regular season games last season ... Ball State scored a 13-0 (5 inn.) win April 6 and followed with a 10-4 victory the next day at the BSU Softball Complex.
► LEADING THE NATION: Jennifer Gilbert enters the week as the NCAA Division I active career leader in RBI (225), runs scored (194), doubles (56) and home runs (67) ... Gilbert’s 225 career RBI are 23 ahead of the next closest player, Alabama’s Kaila Hunt ... Her 67 career home runs are one ahead of Oklahoma junior Lauren Chamberlain, while her 195 career runs scored are three ahead of Arizona State’s Alix Johnson ... Gilbert’s 56 career doubles are tied with Harvard’s Kasey Lange and Louisville’s Katie Keller, and just four more than her Ball State classmate first baseman Taylor Rager in fourth at 52 ... Gilbert also enters the week ranked seventh in career slugging percentage (.801) and hits (251), while ranking 10th in at bats (659) among active NCAA Division I players.
► NEARING THE TOP 10: With her 67th career home run at Notre Dame last Tuesday, Jennifer Gilbert moved into a tie for 16th on the NCAA Division I career home run list ... Gilbert, who is already the NCAA career home run leader among Canadian-born players, needs just four more home runs to break into the top 10 in NCAA history ... Former UCLA slugger Stacey Nuveman (1997, 99, 2001-02) is the NCAA Division I career home leader with 90 long balls ... Gilbert also enters Friday’s doubleheader ranked 13th in NCAA Division I history with a .797 career slugging percentage.
► RACKING UP THE AWARDS: The Ball State softball team continues to dominate the league’s weekly awards, picking up at least one honor in five of its eight weeks of play this season, including sweeping the honors twice (Feb. 10 & March 3) ... Jennifer Gilbert has been named MAC West Division Player of the Week twice this season (Feb. 24 & March 3), while Kelsey Schifferdecker (Feb 10 & 17) and Nicole Steinbach (March 3 & 24) have each picked up a pair of MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week honors ... Taylor Rager also earned player of the week accolades Feb. 10 ... Last season, the Cardinals had at least one MAC weekly award winner in 10 of its 12 weeks of play, including sweeping the awards five times.
► THE RAGER FACTOR: In addition to being the program’s record holder for career double plays turned at 60, Taylor Rager is also quickly climbing BSU’s career offensive charts ... Rager is currently fourth in program history with a .350 career batting average ... Her 157 career RBI are second in BSU annals and third in MAC history ... Rager is also third in program history in both home runs (32) and doubles (52), while ranking fifth in hits (209).
► WALK IT OUT: Taylor Rager became just the sixth player in Mid-American Conference history to draw 100 career walks when she was issued a free pass in the third inning of last Saturday’s 8-1 win over Toledo ... She would go on to draw two more walks Sunday versus the Rockets to raise her career total to 102 which ranks her sixth in MAC history ... In addition, senior third baseman Audrey Bickel and Jennifer Gilbert are tied for 16th on the league’s career walks chart at 82 each ... The only other active MAC players ranked in the top 20 on the league’s career walks chart are Ohio senior Raven King (84) and Miami senior Kayla Ledbetter (83).
► WINNING IN THE CIRCLE: Despite just a year-and-a-half under their belts, sophomore pitchers Kelsey Schifferdecker and Nicole Steinbach enter the week as two of the winningest pitchers in program history ... Schifferdecker’s 23 career wins are tied for 13th on Ball State’s career list, while Steinbach’s 22 wins are tied for 15th ... Both are on pace to break into the top 10 by the end of the 2014 season ... Steinbach is also tied for third in BSU annals with five career saves.
► Ball State posted a 3-0 win at then-No. 3 Arizona State March 2, marking the highest-ranked opponent the Cardinals have defeated since a 2-1 victory at then-No. 3 Missouri March 19, 2010.
► Jennifer Gilbert opened MAC play by going 5-for-5 with four singles and a triple last weekend versus Toledo ... Gilbert also drew a pair of intentional walks and was hit by a pitch, all three coming in Sunday’s game, to reach base safely in all eight plate appearances versus the Rockets.
► Of Briana Evans’ team-leading 38 hits this season, 20 have been either infield or bunt singles ... Evans is also tied for fifth in the MAC with nine stolen bases this season.
► Briana Evans leads the league with four triples this season, with all four coming in BSU victories ... Her first triple came in a 7-1 win over Morehead State (Feb. 22) ... Her second came in a 12-0 (5 inn.) win over Alabama A&M (March 14) ... She posted triples in back-to-back games over North Dakota State (6-4) and UMKC (8-0, 5 inn.) March 22.
► Junior right fielder Loren Cihlar remains the top base stealer in program history based on percentage, with a .933 (28-for-30) rate of success over her career ... She is 8-for-8 in stolen base attempts this season, earning her first swipe of the year versus Virginia Tech (Feb. 16).
► After serving mainly as a pinch hitter/runner last season, sophomore Emily Dabkowski has stepped nicely into the starting role at second base for the Cardinals in 2014 ... She has reached base safely in 28 of Ball State’s 32 games and owns a team-best 10-game hitting streak starting versus No. 3 Arizona State (March 2) and ending following a single versus No. 23 Auburn (March 15).
► Emily Dabkowski drove in what proved to be the game-winning run versus No. 3 Arizona State (March 2) with a two-out RBI single through the left side in the top of the seventh inning ... She also showed a flair for the dramatic versus Murray State (Feb. 22), blasting an eighth inning walk-off two-run homer over the left-center field wall to give BSU the 5-3 victory.
► Overall, Emily Dabkowski has helped account for nine game-winning runs this season, including scoring the winning run six times and adding three game-winning RBI ... Jennifer Gilbert is second, accounting for eight game winning runs, with six game-winning RBI and two game-winning runs scored ... Four of Gilbert’s 11 home runs this season have produced eventual game-winning RBI.
► Eight different players have blasted at least one home run for Ball State this season, with Jennifer Gilbert leading the way with 11 and Emily Dabkowski, Taylor Rager, Audrey Bickel and senior first baseman Lauren Schroeder following at four each.
► Lauren Schroeder blasted a three-run, pinch-hit home run with two outs in the third inning of last Saturday’s 8-1 win over Toledo ... It was her eighth career home run and fourth career three-run blast ... Of her eight career home runs, five have been pinch-hit bombs, including a walk-off grand slam to cap last season’s run rule of Butler (April 9, 2013).
► Ball State’s defense collected its 15th double play of the season Tuesday at No. 23 Notre Dame ... The Cardinals entered the week ranked first in the league and 17th nationally with a 0.47 double plays-per-game average ... Last season, Ball State ranked fourth nationally with a 0.56 double plays per game average, turning 30 double plays in 54 games.
► Uniform Watch 2014: Ball State enters the week with a 7-1 record in its white uniform, a 10-7 mark in its black uniform, a 2-4 ledger in its grey uniform and a 0-1 mark in its red tops.