MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State softball team fought like the reigning Mid-American Conference Championships should Sunday afternoon, rallying from two runs down to end the regular season with a hard-fought 8-5 victory over Bowling Green at the BSU Softball Complex.
The Cardinals (39-13 / 17-3 MAC) will now turn its focus towards the second season, when it opens the 2012 MAC Tournament as the No. 1 seed Thursday with a scheduled 5 p.m. start versus an opponent yet to be determined.
Bowling Green falls to 35-20 (15-7 MAC) with the loss and earns the No. 3 seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament.
In a senior day celebration, catcher Amanda Montalto (Las Vegas, Nev./Palo Verde) became the Ball State and MAC's all-time leader in walks with two on the day, moving her career total to 106.
Senior hurler Kim Mazzapica (Palm Harbor, Fla./East Lake) picked up her 23rd victory of the season in the circle and improves to a perfect 11-0 against league foes. In addition, her 23-3 overall record ranks first in the MAC based on winning percentage at .884 and is currently the best single-season winning percentage in league history.
Senior shortstop Alison Mercado (Perris, Calif./Arizona Western College) went 1-for-3 in her final regular season game, including an RBI fielder's choice sacrifice bunt which drove in a critical run in the bottom of the fifth.
Senior pitcher Audrey Workman (Wickenburg, Ariz./Yavapai College) had the day off after earning the win in Saturday's MAC Championship clinching victory.
Bowling Green tallied the first run of the contest, thanks to a RBI single from Katie Yoho in the top of the first.
The score remained 1-0 until the Cardinals offense came to life with three runs in the bottom of the fourth after BGSU replaced its starting pitcher. Sophomore third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) opened the inning with a single and was replaced by pinch runner Jessica Craft (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte). With one out, freshman right fielder Loren Cihlar (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles) singled to give BSU two runners on base.
After a groundout advanced the runners, pinch hitter Lauren Schroeder (Greenfield, Ind./New Palastine) was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Freshman designated player Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) followed with a bases-clearing double to give the Cardinals a brief 3-1 lead.
Bowling Green would capitalize on a pair of home runs in the top of the fifth to reclaim the advantage at 5-3.
Singles from sophomore first baseman Taylor Rager (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern), Bickel and junior center fielder Amanda Carpenter (Santee, Calif./Santana) would load the bases with no outs in the bottom fifth. However, BGSU re-inserted its starting pitcher at that point and she held the Cardinals to one run on a Mercado RBI fielder's choice sacrifice bunt.
Trailing 5-4, the Cardinals held the Falcons scoreless in the top of the sixth and proceeded to take the lead in the bottom of the frame thanks to four more runs.
Sophomore left fielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) opened the frame with a leadoff home run to tie the score, while Montalto and Rager both drew walks. Bickel would reach base on the next at bat thanks to a fielder's choice which put out Montalto for BSU's first out.
Carpenter followed with a RBI single through the right side which put runners at the corners and gave BSU a 6-5 edge. Carpenter would then get called out in a rundown on a double steal attempt, but Bickel came home to score and gave BSU a 7-5 advantage. Cihlar would then add a final insurance run with her first career home run over the right center field fence.
Mazzapica would then shut down the Falcons in the seventh, including opening the inning with a strikeout. In earning her 23th win of the season, Mazzapica held the Falcons to five runs on seven hits and struck out three batters.
BGSU's Paris Imholz suffered the loss, falling to 17-9, after holding the Cardinals scoreless over the first three innings, only to surrender four runs over the her final two. In all, she pitched five innings, allowing four runs and six hits.