WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - - Trailing 5-1 after two innings, the Ball State softball team responded with five unanswered runs over the final three frames to claim a 6-5 victory over Purdue Wednesday evening at the Boilermaker Softball Complex.
The Cardinals' (20-13) offense connected for six runs and 11 hits to help the team pick up its 20th victory of the season. Senior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) tallied three of Ball State’s hits, including a pair of solo home runs, while senior first baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) and sophomore center fielder Briana Evans (Tulsa, Okla./Union) add two hits each.
“I am very proud of the way we battled through adversity tonight,” Ball State head coach Tyra Perry said. “Trailing 5-1 to a strong Purdue team, we did not panic. Instead, we pulled together and battled our way back into the game. We turned in a great team effort, and in the end, it paid off in a big victory.”
Gilbert provided what proved to be the game-winning run for the Cardinals, leading off the top of the seventh with a solo home run over the center field wall. Gilbert finished the game 3-for-3, with two home runs, a double, a walk, three RBI, and three runs scored. Over the last three games, Gilbert is 8-for-8 with three walks and a hit-by-pitch.
After surrendering five runs, only four of which were earned, over the first two innings, sophomore pitcher Nicole Steinbach (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean) settled in and limited the Boilermakers (20-19-1) to five hits over the final five frames to earn her ninth win of the season.
Gilbert opened the scoring in the top of the first inning, blasting a two-out solo home run over the left-center field wall. However, the Boilermakers responded with a two-run blast from Tori Chiodo in the bottom of the frame. Purdue would post three more runs in the home half of the second inning to pull ahead 5-1.
After a pair of scoreless innings, Ball State posted three runs in the top of the fifth to take control of the game’s momentum. Evans opened the inning with a bunt single, and after stealing second, reached third on an infield single from junior right fielder Loren Cihlar (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles North). An RBI groundout from sophomore shortstop Selena Reyna (Houston, Texas/South Houston) followed to drive in the Cardinals’ first run of the inning.
Gilbert would bring home Cihlar from second with a RBI double to right, while Bickel smashed a RBI single to right-center to cut the Purdue lead to 5-4 entering the bottom of the fifth.
Ball State would capitalize on a Purdue error in the top of the sixth to score the game-tying run. Junior pinch hitter Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) opened the inning with a double to left-center field, just missing a home run as the ball hit six inches from the top of the wall. After the double, freshman pinch runner Amanda Arnett (Monroe, Mich./Monroe) advanced to third on a one-out groundout and scored on an error from the Purdue shortstop.
Gilbert provided more fireworks in the top of the seventh, blasting her 69th career home run over the center field wall to open the inning. With the blast, Gilbert is two long balls shy of breaking into the top 10 in NCAA Division I history. The run also stood as the game-winner, giving her five game-winning home runs this season.
The Ball State softball team returns to action Friday, when it travels to Northern Illinois for a Mid-American Conference doubleheader. First pitch for the opening game is scheduled for 2 pm ET / 1 pm CT.
For the most up-to-date news on Ball State softball, follow the team on Twitter: @BallStateSB and @TyraPerry13/ Instagram: ballstatesb / Facebook: BallStateSoftball