MUNCIE, Ind. - - A fifth inning walk-off grand slam from sophomore shortstop Selena Reyna (Houston, Texas/South Houston) lifted the Ball State softball team to an 8-0 (5 inn.) win over Eastern Michigan Saturday afternoon at the BSU Softball Complex and guaranteed the Cardinals at least a share of the 2014 Mid-American Conference regular season title.
The Cardinals, who improve to 31-17 (11-4 MAC) with the win, can clinch the title outright and the No. 1 seed in next week’s MAC Tournament with a win over the Eagles (13-36 / 4-15 MAC) tomorrow afternoon. First pitch for tomorrow’s regular season finale is set for 1 pm at the BSU Softball Complex.
Buffalo and Kent State are the only teams with a chance to catch the Cardinals, and they square off tomorrow with identical 10-5 MAC records after the Bulls scored a 9-0 (5 inn.) win over the Golden Flashes this afternoon.
“I am excited about our team clinching at least a share of the MAC regular season title,” Ball State head coach Tyra Perry said. “Tomorrow, however, our focus will be on winning it outright and claiming the No. 1 seed in next week’s MAC Tournament.”
On the team’s senior day celebration, it was the ninth career home run off the bat of Reyna which brought the loudest cheers of the game at the BSU Softball Complex. With bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fifth, Reyna lined a 1-1 pitch over the left-center field wall to send BSU’s four seniors out with their third consecutive MAC title.
“I can’t say enough about Selena,” Perry said. “She has been a trooper all year. She really works hard and wants to do her part to help the team succeed. It was great to see her come up with the big hit to help win the game.”
Following the conclusion of Saturday’s win over the Eagles, the Cardinals celebrated the storied careers of the team’s four seniors; Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean), Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney), Taylor Rager (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) and Lauren Schroeder (Greenfield, Ind./New Palestine).
“You can look at the stat sheets, the record books and know what this senior class means to the program,” Perry said about the team’s four seniors. “These young ladies have set the bar high for the future, as far as their consistent performance over all four years. They have continually put up high numbers, and have done a lot to help this program win.”
After two-and-a-half scoreless innings, it was Ball State seniors who struck first in the bottom of the third inning. Reyna and sophomore center fielder Briana Evans (Tulsa, Okla./Union) opened the inning with back-to-back singles, while a one-out walk to sophomore second baseman Emily Dabkowski (Plainfield, Ind./South Putnam) loaded the bases. Gilbert followed with a two-run single off the out-stretched glove of a sprinting EMU left fielder to bring in the game’s first two runs.
After a walk to Rager loaded the bases for a second time in the inning, Bickel sliced a two-run single through the left side to give the Cardinals a 4-0 advantage.
The score remained 4-0 until the bottom of the fifth inning. Rager opened the frame with a double, while Bickel reached base on an error by the EMU third baseman. Sophomore designated player Sammi Cowger (Fenton, Mich./Fenton) then loaded the bases with a single to left field, setting up Reyna’s game-ending grand slam two batters later.
Not to be lost on the day was the pitching performance of sophomore Nicole Steinbach (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean), who picked up her third complete game shutout victory of the season. In improving to 14-10 on the year, Steinbach held Eastern Michigan to just four hits, while chalking up four strikeouts. She also retired the Eagles in order in the first and third innings.
For the most up-to-date news on Ball State softball, follow the team on Twitter: @BallStateSB and @TyraPerry13/ Instagram: ballstatesb / Facebook: BallStateSoftball.
- BallStateSports.com -