MUNCIE, Ind. - - For their part in helping guide the Ball State softball team to a 3-1 record at last weekend's KSU Classic, junior outfielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) was named the Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week and freshman pitcher Nicole Steinbach (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean) earned MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week.
"Jenny had a great weekend," said Ball State head coach Craig Nicholson. "She was as dialed in as I have ever seen her, especially for this early in the year. Nicole pitched very well for us and gave us a great chance to win two games. Not only did she came up with some big strikeouts in tough situations, she was able to keep the ball in the infield, keep the ball down and throw a couple double play balls."
Gilbert, who was also named the Madness MAC Softball Player of the Week for her efforts at the KSU Classic, is now a five-time career MAC Player of the Week honoree, having picked up the award twice as both a freshman and a sophomore.
Steinbach, who was making her collegiate debut for Ball State last weekend, earns the honor for the first time in her career.
The reigning MAC Player of the Year, Gilbert continued where she left off last season, blasting three home runs and hitting .750 (9-for-12) last weekend. In addition to her solid average at the plate, Gilbert posted a 1.583 slugging percentage and a .800 on base percentage while accounting for 16 of Ball State's 33 runs in the two-day tournament.
She opened the season by going a perfect 2-for-2 with three walks, a home run, three RBI and four runs scored versus IUPUI (Feb. 16). She followed with a 1-for-3 effort against UT Martin (Feb. 16), adding another run scored.
Against Tennessee Tech (Feb. 17), Gilbert collected an RBI in each at bat, with a two-run home run and a pair of RBI singles. She closed the tournament going 3-for-4 against Eastern Kentucky (Feb. 17) with another home run, a double, three RBI and three runs scored.
With her three home runs on the weekend, Gilbert raised her career total to 36 which is three shy of breaking the Ball State career record of 38 set by Amanda Montalto (2009-12).
In her first weekend of collegiate competition, Steinbach recorded a pair of complete game shutout victories, including a 2-0 win over UT Martin (Feb. 16) and a 10-0 (5) victory over Tennessee Tech (Feb. 17). In 12 innings of work, Steinbach held opposing batters to a .103 average, while logging 11 strikeouts and issuing just two walks.
In seven innings of work in her collegiate debut versus UT Martin, Steinbach scattered three hits and struck out five batters, while issuing just one walk. She allowed just one base runner after the fourth inning, but was able to spark an inning-ending double play in the sixth to face the minimum nine batters over the final three frames.
In her second career outing versus Tennessee Tech, Steinbach limited the Golden Eagles to just one hit over five innings, while striking out six batters. After giving up an infield single in the first and a one out walk in the second, Steinbach retired the final 11 Golden Eagles she faced.
The Ball State softball team returns to action Friday, when it opens play in the Central Arkansas Tournament with games versus Creighton (11 a.m. CT) and Grambling (1 p.m. CT).