MUNCIE, Ind. - - With a Friday doubleheader sweep of Toledo, 15-8 and 5-2, the Ball State softball team moved to one win shy of clinching its third Mid-American Conference regular season title in four years.
Ball State, which improves to 37-13 (15-3 MAC) with the sweep will battle Bowling Green (35-18 / 15-5 MAC) for the league title Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m) at the BSU Softball Complex. By splitting a doubleheader at Miami (33-17/ 14-6MAC) Friday afternoon, the Falcons are the only team that can catch the Cardinals for the title.
The pair of wins also secured a top two seed for the Cardinals in the upcoming Mid-American Conference Tournament, which gives them a double-bye into the second day of the event.
In addition, Ball State head coach Craig Nicholson became the fastest coach in program history to reach 200 career victories, when BSU topped the Rockets in the opener. Nicholson now owns a 201-143 (.584) as the Cardinals' skipper, including an 80-44 (.645) mark in league games.
Between the two games, the Cardinals hit five home runs on the day, raising their MAC single-season home run record to 67.
Going yard for Ball State in the first game were freshman right fielder Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan), sophomore third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) and senior designated player Amanda Montalto (Las Vegas, Nev./Palo Verde).
Ball State added two more home runs in the second game thanks to sophomore left fielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) and senior shortstop Alison Mercado (Perris, Cali./Arizona Western College).
Bickel led the Cardinals with a .571 batting average for the day (4-for-7), while four other BSU players went .500, including junior catcher Sadie Robertson (Fenton, Mo./Rockwood Summit) who went 1-for-2 with four walks. As a team, the Cardinals hit .375 over the two games.
In the circle, senior pitcher Kim Mazzapica (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake) earned her 22nd win of the year in the first game to improve her overall record to 22-3. Senior hurler Audrey Workman (Wickenburg, Ariz./Yavapai College) earned the win in the nightcap to improve to 15-10.
GAME 1 RECAP: Ball State 15 - Toledo 8
After falling behind 4-0 in the top of the first, the Ball State softball team used a season-high 15 runs to complete a 15-8 come-from-behind victory over Toledo in the first game of a Friday doubleheader at the BSU Softball Complex.
Freshman right fielder Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) led the charge in the win by going 2-for-3 with her sixth career home run, a sacrifice fly and a hit by pitch. She led the Cardinals with five RBI in the game, while also scoring two runs.
Sophomore third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) also had a strong game, going 3-for-4 including her 10th home run of the year. She tallied four RBI and two runs scored in the game.
Adding to BSU's long ball list in the game was senior designated player Amanda Montalto (Las Vegas, Nev./Palo Verde) recorded her 15th blast of the season in a 2-for-5 effort.
The Cardinals quickly evened the score in the bottom of the frame which was started when Stuedemann was hit by a pitch. One out later, Montalto singled and sophomore first baseman Taylor Rager (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) drew a walk to load the bases. Bickel followed with a two-run single to cut the Rockets' lead in half.
Junior center fielder Amanda Carpenter (Santee, Calif./Santana) followed with a RBI single through the right side to put runners at first and second. After a fly put runners at first and third, a double steal from allowed Bickel to come home for BSU's fourth run.
Ball State took its first lead in the game in the bottom of the second, when a two-run homer from Stuedemann moved the score to 6-4. Junior catcher Sadie Robertson (Fenton, Mo./Rockwood Summit) drew a walk to open the inning.
After Toledo tied the game with a two-run home run in the top of the third, Stuedemann came up with a clutch two-out, two-run single to give the Cardinals the edge for good in the contest. With two outs, senior shortstop Alison Mercado (Perris, Cali./Arizona Western College) doubled to start the rally, while freshman second baseman Taylor Cox (Garden Grove, Calif./Pacifica) and Robertson drew walks to load the bases for Stuedemann.
Ball State added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth on Bickel's two-run shot over the right field wall which also plated Rager who walked.
After a scoreless fifth, a two-run shot from Toledo brought the guests within 10-8. However, the Cardinals would respond with five runs in the bottom of the frame to remove any doubt.
Montalto led off the frame with a solo shot, while Rager was hit by a pitch and Bickel singled. A walk to Carpenter and another hit batter, Mercado, would drive in the second run of the inning in freshman pinch runner Jessica Craft (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte). Pinch hitter Katrina Morales (Whittier, Calif./St. Paul) followed with a single to drive in another run and keep bases loaded.
A walk to Robertson drove in another run, while a sacrifice fly from Stuedemann ended BSU's scoring.
Senior pitcher Kim Mazzapica (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake) would retire the side in order in the top of the seventh to earn her 22nd win of the year and improve to 22-3. Mazzapica would strike out four batters in the complete game victory.
Casi Rohr suffered the loss for the Rockets, falling to 12-21 in the circle after allowing 13 runs and 10 hits over 5.0 innings.
GAME 2 RECAP: Ball State 5 - Toledo 2
After the torrid pace of the first game, a 70-minute rain delay seemingly cooled off the bats, as the teams combined for one run over the first three-and-a-half innings.
The run, however, came courtesy of sophomore left fielder Jennifer Gilbert's (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) Ball State single-season record 17th home run of the season, which gave BSU a 1-0 edge after the first.
Ball State added its second run in the bottom of the fourth after a leadoff double from sophomore first baseman Taylor Rager (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) and a RBI bunt from senior shortstop Alison Mercado (Perris, Cali./Arizona Western College) three batters later which plated pinch runner Jessica Craft (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte).
Toledo would tie the score in the top of the fifth, only to see BSU answer with a run in the bottom of the frame to retake the lead at 3-2. Pinch runner Hannah Zimmerman (Indianapolis, Ind./Scecina Memorial) scored from second on a two-out bloop single from Rager after entering the game for senior designated player Amanda Montalto (Las Vegas, Nev./Palo Verde) who doubles one batter earlier.
Ball State tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a Mercado's second career home run at Ball State. Junior center fielder Amanda Carpenter (Santee, Calif./Santana) singled to open the inning, while Mercado followed with the four-bagger.
Toledo threatened with bases loaded in the top of the seventh, but senior hurler Audrey Workman (Wickenburg, Ariz./Yavapai College) would strikeout the game's final batter. In improving to 15-10 on the year, Workman struck out seven batters, while allowing just two runs on six hits.
Alli Beery suffered the pitching loss for Toledo, falling to 5-11 after giving up five runs on 10 hits over 5.0 innings of work.