MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State softball team split a Friday doubleheader versus Central Michigan, winning the first game 8-2, before falling 8-5 (8 inn.) in the nightcap at the BSU Softball Complex.
With the split, the Cardinals move to 30-17 on the year, including a 10-4 mark in Mid-American Conference play. Ball State is currently tied with Kent State (10-4 MAC) for the top spot in the league race and can clinch at least a share of the MAC regular season title with two wins over Eastern Michigan (4-14 MAC), who travels to Muncie for single games Saturday (2 pm) and Sunday (1 pm). The Golden Flashes host Buffalo (9-5 MAC), who is also in the league title hunt, for single games Saturday (2 pm) and Sunday (1 pm).
“Central Michigan is a good team,” Ball State head coach Tyra Perry said. “In the first game, I thought we performed well in all three facets. We played solid defense, had timely hits and had really strong pitching from Nicole. In the second game, we didn’t get all of those things working to the level we needed to pull out the victory. I think we should have found a way to win, considering what we were playing for, but I believe our team is going to fight tomorrow and Sunday to finish on top.”
At the conclusion to Saturday’s game versus the Eagles, the Ball State softball team will honor its four-member senior class; Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney), Taylor Rager (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern), Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) and Lauren Schroeder (Greenfield, Ind./New Palestine).
Over Friday’s two games with the Chippewas (32-18 / 10-8 MAC), the Cardinals connected for 18 hits, including three home runs, and tallied 15 total walks. Rager provided a long ball in each of the two games, while Bickel also went yard in the nightcap. Overall, Rager led the Ball State offense by going 4-for-7 with two walks, two home runs, five runs scored and four RBI.
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GAME 1 RECAP: Ball State 8 – Central Michigan 2
Behind a solid pitching performance from sophomore Nicole Steinbach (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean), the Cardinals picked up an 8-2 victory to open Friday’s doubleheader with the Chippewas. Over seven innings of work, Steinbach limited CMU to five hits and a pair of runs, while striking out five batters.
After two-and-a-half scoreless innings, the Cardinals score three two-out runs in the bottom of the third by capitalizing on walks and CMU miscues. With one out, Gilbert, Rager and Bickel drew back-to-back-to-back walks to load the bases. A fielder’s choice from sophomore designated player Sammi Cowger (Fenton, Mich./Fenton) followed and kept the bases loaded as CMU made a play on the lead runner.
A wild pitch from CMU’s Morgan Yuncker would then bring home the game’s first run, while an error by the catcher on the throw back to the plate led to a second Ball State score and helped Cowger move to third. After sophomore shortstop Selena Reyna (Houston, Texas/South Houston) was hit by a pitch, a pass ball brought home the Cardinals’ third run.
Ball State extended its lead to 5-0 in the bottom of the fourth thanks to Rager’s first home run of the day. The two-run shot over the right-center field wall also plated Gilbert who walked one batter earlier.
The Cardinals added another run in the bottom of the fifth, as another error by the CMU catcher, this time on a throw to second on a stolen base by sophomore center fielder Briana Evans (Tulsa, Okla./Union), allowed Reyna to score from third. Reyna led off the inning with a single, advanced to second on an illegal pitch and move to third on a sacrifice bunt from freshman catcher Shelbie Scamihorn (Terre Haute, Ind./South Vigo).
Central Michigan attempted to rally in the top of the sixth, thanks to a leadoff home run from Brittney Horan and back-to-back one out doubles from Trista Cox and Cory DeLamielleure. However, with runners at first and second after a walk to Chelsea DeLamielleure, Bickel and Rager combined to turn an inning-ending double play to end the CMU threat.
Ball State countered with two more runs in the bottom of the sixth to give the game its finals score of 8-2. Rager singled to open the inning, while Bickel followed with a double. Cowger then tagged a sacrifice fly to left field to bring home Rager. Two batters later, Scamihorn singled in Bickel to give BSU its six-run edge back.
Steinbach would retire the Chippewas in order in the top of the seventh, fielding three straight grounders to end the game.
GAME 2 RECAP: Central Michigan 8 – Ball State 5 (8 inn.)
The long ball was the story of the second game, as the teams combined for six home runs in the nightcap, including back-to-back blasts from CMU in the top of the eighth which sealed the victory for the guests.
Central Michigan took its first lead of the day in the top of the first inning, as a two-out RBI single from Cox drove in Lauren Bowman who opened the game with a single up the middle.
Ball State answered back to tie the score in the bottom of the second, as Bickel led off the inning with her ninth home run of the season and the 25th of her career.
The Chippewas followed with a two-run shot by CarolAnn Sexaur in the top of the third, to reclaim the lead at 3-1.
Rager counted with a two-run shot in the bottom of the frame, her ninth homer of the season and the 37th of her career. Junior right fielder Loren Cihlar (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles North) opened the inning with a walk, setting up Rager’s two-out, game-tying blast.
After a scoreless fourth, CMU added a second two-run home run, as Horan blasted her second long ball of the day to give the Chippewas a 5-3 lead.
Once again, however, the Cardinals countered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame, with Scamihorn providing a two-out, two-run double with bases loaded to even the score at 5-5. Gilbert and Rager were issued free passes to open the inning, while Reyna connected on a two-out single to center to keep the inning alive. Scamihorn followed with a game-tying double off the left field wall.
The game remained tied until the top of the eight, when Cox and Co. DeLamielleure opened the inning with back-to-back home runs. Central Michigan added another run on a RBI fielder’s choice from Raechel Zahrn to pull ahead 8-5.
After pinch hitter Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) opened the bottom of the eighth with a walk, CMU’s Rachael Knapp retired the next three Ball State batters to end the game.
- BallStateSports.com -