► THIS WEEK IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL: The Ball State softball team closes the 2014 regular season this weekend by hosting Central Michigan for a Friday (1 pm) doubleheader and Eastern Michigan for single games Saturday (2 pm) and Sunday (1 pm).
► TOURNAMENT LOCK: Thanks to a two-game series sweep of Miami last weekend, the Ball State softball team has secured a berth in the 2014 Mid-American Conference Tournament ... With a 9-3 (.750) overall record, the Cardinals enter the final week of league play as the projected No. 1 seed in the tournament ... Ball State can lock up the No. 1 seed by winning all four games this weekend and can secure at least a share of the 2014 MAC regular season title by going 3-1 ... Kent State is the current No. 2 seed with a 10-4 (.714) MAC record and hosts Buffalo (9-5 MAC) this weekend ... If Ball State and Kent State both finish the season at 12-4, the tiebreaker will be determined by winning percentage vs. ranked conference teams (top to bottom, regardless of division; versus common opponents, regardless of the number of times played).
► FOLLOW THE ACTION: Ball State fans can follow this weekend’s action with live stats available at BallStateSports.com ... WCRD 91.3 FM continues its coverage this weekend, with Torey Fox calling the action live from the BSU Softball Complex for WCRD and BallStateSports.com ... 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 the weekend with an 883-931-4 (.487) 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 364-378-1 (.491) 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) ... Ball State 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 a 92-25 (.786) record in league play ... Kent State has the second-best league record during the span at 78-42 (.650).
► 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 Friday’s doubleheader versus Central Michigan with a 371-360-1 (.508) career record, including a 29-16 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.
► SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: Ball State enters the final weekend of the regular season with a 29-16 overall record and atop the Mid-American Conference standings with a 9-3 (.750) league mark ... Last weekend, Ball State swept a two-game series from Miami, scoring a 2-1 Saturday win and a 9-1 (5 inn.) Sunday victory, to take over the top spot in the league ... The Cardinals are the top batting team in the MAC with a .323 average and also lead the league in runs scored (257), slugging percentage (.535), on base percentage (.393), total bases (655) and home runs (53) ... Senior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert leads the league in nearly every offensive category entering the week, including batting average (.416), slugging percentage (.964), on base percentage (.506), runs scored (48), runs batted in (57), home runs (18) and total bases (132) ... Sophomore center fielder Briana Evans is second on the squad and tied for third in the MAC with a .385 batting average ... In the circle, sophomore Kelsey Schifferdecker paces the squad with a 14-5 record and has three complete game shutouts on the year ... Schifferdecker also has a team-best 3.21 ERA over 126.1 innings of work and has struck out 66 batters.
► IN #MACTION: In league-only games, Ball State enters the weekend ranked first in the MAC in batting average (.320), ERA (1.64) and fielding percentage (.979) ... Jennifer Gilbert paces all MAC players with a .514 batting average and a 1.029 slugging percentage, while senior first baseman Taylor Rager is first in on base percentage at .634 ... Sophomore pitchers Kelsey Schifferdecker and Nicole Steinbach rank third (1.51) and fourth (1.60), respectively, in the league in ERA.
► RPI UPDATE: Based on the strength of its 29-16 record entering the week, the Ball State softball team is ranked 69th in the latest NCAA RPI rankings released April 28 ... The Cardinals have played 18 games versus top 100 teams and own a 6-12 record in those games ... Kent State is the highest-ranked MAC team at 54th, followed by Ball State.
► SCOUTING CENTRAL MICHIGAN (RPI - 118): The Chippewas enter Friday’s doubleheader with a 31-17 overall record, including a 9-7 mark in MAC play ... If the season were to end today, CMU would be the sixth-seed in the MAC Tournament ... Last weekend, Central Michigan swept a Friday twinbill at Bowling Green (6-5 and 5-3) before dropping road games at Toledo Saturday (9-1 in 5 inn.) and Sunday (1-0) ... CMU boasts the third-best pitching staff in the MAC with a 2.84 team ERA, while the Chippewas’ .262 team batting average is eighth in the league ... Trista Cox paces the CMU offense with a .340 batting average, and also has team-highs of 34 RBI, 28 runs scored and 10 home runs ... CarolAnn Sexauer is second on the team with a .330 batting average ... In the circle, Rachael Knapp has a team-best 12-3 record and is third in the league with a 2.04 ERA over 106.1 innings of work ... Knapp has struck out 117 batters on the year, while issuing just 38 walks ... The Chippewas hold a 66-25 lead in the all-time series, despite five straight Ball State victories ... Last season, the Cardinals swept an April 26 doubleheader in Mount Pleasant, Mich., winning the first game 12-0 (5 inn.) and the second 6-4 (10 inn.).
► SCOUTING EASTERN MICHIGAN (RPI - 244): The Eagles enter the weekend with a 12-34 overall record, including a 3-13 mark in league play ... Eastern Michigan, which plays a Friday doubleheader at Miami before visiting Ball State for the remainder of the weekend, has been eliminated from MAC Tournament contention ... In midweek action, EMU dropped a pair of home games to IPFW Tuesday by scores of 9-0 (5 inn.) and 7-4 ... As a team, Eastern Michigan ranks last in the league in both batting average (.224) and ERA (5.13) ... For the year, EMU is being out-scored by slightly over a 2-to-1 margin at 288-to-143 ... Abby Davidson leads the squad with a .287 batting average, while Michelle Kriegshauser is second at .275 ... Lindsay Rich is Eastern Michigan’s top pitcher, with a 4.74 ERA over 136.0 innings of work ... Rich also owns a 5-14 record and has a pair of saves on the season ... Ball State owns a 56-37 lead in the all-time series versus the Eagles, including wins in 11 of the last 13 games ... EMU did pick up a win in the lone meeting last year, scoring a 6-4 victory in Ypsilanti, Mich., April 27.
► IN THE TOP 10: With her 74th career home run in last Sunday’s 9-1 win over Miami, Jennifer Gilbert took over sole possession of eighth place on the NCAA Division I career home run list ... Gilbert, who is already the NCAA career home run leader among Canadian-born players, needs three homers to pass Arizona’s Jenny Dalton (1993-96) for seventh all-time ... Former UCLA slugger Stacey Nuveman (1997, 99, 2001-02) is the NCAA Division I career home leader with 90 long balls ... Gilbert also enters the week ranked eighth in NCAA Division I history with a .823 career slugging percentage, which includes all active players meeting the minimum requirements (250 career at bats).
► LEADING THE NATION: Jennifer Gilbert enters the week as the NCAA Division I active career leader in RBI (242), runs scored (209), doubles (62) and home runs (74), all of which are also MAC career records ... Gilbert’s 242 career RBI are 35 ahead of the next closest player, Alabama’s Kaila Hunt ... Her 74 career home runs are eight ahead of Oklahoma junior Lauren Chamberlain, while her 209 career runs scored are 11 ahead of Arizona State’s Alix Johnson ... Gilbert’s 62 career doubles are three ahead of Harvard’s Kasey Lange and Louisville’s Katie Keller, plus are just six more than her Ball State classmate Taylor Rager in fourth at 56 ... Gilbert also enters the week ranked fifth in career hits (271), sixth in slugging percentage (.823), ninth in at bats (699) and 24th in triples (10) among active NCAA Division I players.
► THE RAGER FACTOR: In addition to being the program’s record holder for career double plays turned at 64, Taylor Rager is also close to the top in nearly every career offensive category ... Rager is currently fourth in program history with a .353 career batting average ... Her 168 career RBI are second in both BSU and MAC annals, while her 56 career doubles are third in both BSU and MAC history ... Rager also ranks third in program history in home runs (35) and fifth in hits (223).
► 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 the April 5 win over Toledo ... She entered the week tied for first in program history and tied for third in MAC annals with 112 career walks ... Jennifer Gilbert is tied for 11th in league history with 87 career walks, while senior third baseman Audrey Bickel is 14th at 85 ... The only other active MAC players ranked in the top 15 on the league’s career walks chart are Miami senior Kayla Ledbetter in 13th (86) and Ohio senior Raven King in 15th (84).
► WINNING IN THE CIRCLE: Sophomore Kelsey Schifferdecker enters the weekend ranked 10th in program history with 29 career pitching victories, while sophomore Nicole Steinbach is not far behind, ranking 12th with 26 career wins in a Ball State uniform ... Elizabeth Milian (2007-10) is the program’s all-time wins leader at 85 ... Steinbach also enters the weekend 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.
► Sophomore designated player Sammi Cowger has put together a solid MAC campaign, ranking fourth among league players in MAC-only contests with a .417 (10-for-24) batting average ... She blasted her first career home run in Ball State’s 15-2 (5 inn.) win over Akron (April 18) and also has a pair of doubles ... Cowger is third in the MAC-only contest with a .563 on base percentage, having been walked and hit by a pitch four times each.
► Of Briana Evans’ 50 hits this season, 27 have been either infield hits or bunt singles ... Evans is also tied for 11th in the MAC with 10 stolen bases this season.
► Briana Evans leads the league with five triples this season, with all five 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 versus North Dakota State (6-4) and UMKC (8-0, 5 inn.) March 22 ... Her latest triple came in Ball State’s 10-0 (5 inn.) win over Ohio (April 19).
► Junior right fielder Loren Cihlar remains the top base stealer in program history based on percentage, with a .906 (29-for-32) rate of success over her career ... She is 9-for-10 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 38 of Ball State’s 45 games and put together a career-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 ... In BSU’s 7-4 win at Northern Illinois (April 11), Dabkowski blasted her first career grand slam with two outs in the seventh inning to drive in what proved to be the game-winning run ... Dabkowski added another game-winning home run at Indiana (April 16), blasting a three-run shot with one out in the seventh inning.
► Emily Dabkowski and Jennifer Gilbert are tied for first on the team by helping account for 12 game-winning runs each ... Dabkowski has scored the winning run seven times and added five game-winning RBI ... Gilbert has driven in nine game-winning RBI and scored six game-winning runs (three of which were on her own home runs and are factored out) ... Six of Gilbert’s MAC-leading 18 home runs this season have produced game-winning RBI, while three of Dabkowski’s six home runs have provided game-winning runs.
► Lauren Schroeder blasted a three-run, pinch-hit home run with two outs in the third inning of the April 5 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 entered the week ranked second in the league and 30th nationally with a 0.42 double plays-per-game average, having turned 19 twin killings over 45 games ... 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 weekend with an 11-2 record in its white uniform, a 14-9 mark in its black uniform, a 4-4 ledger in its grey uniform and a 0-1 mark in its red tops.