KALAMAZOO, Mich. - - Thanks to a pair of strong pitching performances, and some timely hitting late in both games, the Ball State softball team swept a Saturday doubleheader at Western Michigan by scores of 5-2 and 4-1.
With the sweep, the Cardinals enter Wednesday’s 4 p.m. non-conference doubleheader at Indiana with a 23-14 overall record, including a 4-2 mark in Mid-American Conference play. The Broncos fall to 13-26 (4-6 MAC) with the pair of losses.
“We received two more strong pitching performances from Nicole and Kelsey today,” Ball State head coach Tyra Perry said. “I am proud of the way they went out and attacked Western Michigan’s batters from start to finish. Our offense also had a strong day all around, scoring runs early and coming up with timely hits when we needed them late in both games. It’s exciting to come out of the day with a pair wins, especially with everyone contributing and playing team ball.”
In the nightcap, sophomore pitcher Kelsey Schifferdecker (Belton, Mo./Belton) turned in one of her best outings of the season, limiting the Broncos to one run and three hits to earn her 10th victory of the season. In addition, Schifferdecker would strikeout three batters in the first inning and finished the contest with seven total K’s, one shy of her career-high.
In the opener, sophomore pitcher Nicole Steinbach (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean) held the Western Michigan offense to just one earned run (two overall), while scattering nine hits over seven innings. Steinbach also picked up her 10th victory of the year and chalked up seven strikeouts.
On offense, senior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) wasted little time in moving up the NCAA Division I career home run chart, climbing into a tie for 10th with her 71st career round-tripper, a two-out solo shot over the left-center field wall in the first inning of the opener.
Gilbert also became the first player in MAC history to score 200 career runs later in the opening game, when she drew a walk in the sixth inning and eventually came around to score from third on a RBI groundout from senior first baseman Taylor Rager (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern).
Gilbert, Rager and sophomore second baseman Emily Dabkowski (Plainfield, Ind./South Putnam) each collected three hits over the two games for Ball State, finishing with .600 (3-for-5) batting averages. Rager added a solo home run in the second game, while Dabkowski collected a RBI single in the seventh inning of the nightcap.
GAME ONE RECAP: Ball State 5 – Western Michigan 2
Gilbert opened the scoring in the top of the first inning, with her 71st career home run to center field.
The score remained 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth, when WMU capitalized on a Ball State error and a home run from Sabrina Gamboa to pull ahead 2-1.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Ball State countered with a run in the top of the fifth. Rager singled to open the frame and was replaced by pinch runner Amanda Arnett (Monroe, Mich./Monroe). Arnett advanced to second on a wild pitch, and moved to third on a groundout from sophomore designated player Sammi Cowger (Fenton, Mich./Fenton). Freshman catcher Shelbie Scamihorn (Terre Haute, Ind./South Vigo) then drove in the game-tying run with a RBI groundout to second.
Western Michigan would put runners at first and second with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, and looked poised to score the go-ahead run on a single to left field from Jenny Rohn. However, Gilbert was able to collect the ball and make an amazing throw home to get the final out of the inning.
Ball State broke the game open in the sixth, scoring three runs on three hits. Sophomore shortstop Selena Reyna (Houston, Texas/South Houston) opened the inning with a double, while Gilbert walked to give BSU a pair of base runners. Senior third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) drove in the first run of the inning with a double to center, while Rager followed with a RBI groundout to help plate Gilbert for the 200th time in her career. Ball State’s final run of the inning came on a RBI single to left field from Cowger.
Steinbach would then limit the Broncos to single base runners in both the sixth and seventh innings to complete the Ball State victory.
GAME TWO RECAP: Ball State 4 – Western Michigan 1
After Schifferdecker chalked up three strikeouts in the bottom of the first, Rager gave Ball State a 1-0 lead in the top of the second with a one-out solo homer.
The score remained 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth, when a two-out RBI single from Megan Stamm drove in WMU’s only run of the game.
After two scoreless innings, the Cardinals took control of the scoreboard with a three-run explosion in the top of the seventh. Rager walked to open the inning and came around to score what proved to be the game-winning run on a double from Cowger. After a sac bunt from Scamihorn moved Cowger to third, Dabkowski drove her in with a single to left, but was unfortunately called out trying to stretch it into a double.
The rally would not stop after the second out, however, as sophomore center fielder Briana Evans (Tulsa, Okla./Union) laid down a bunt single and advanced to third on a pinch hit single from junior Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan). Senior Lauren Schroeder (Greenfield, Ind./New Palestine) drove in the game’s final run with a single to left field.
Schifferdecker followed with a flawless seventh inning to secure BSU’s second victory of the day.
For the most up-to-date news on Ball State softball, follow the team on Twitter: @BallStateSB and @TyraPerry13/ Instagram: ballstatesb / Facebook: BallStateSoftball
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