CONWAY, Ark. - - The Ball State softball team split its opening two games at the UCA Tournament hosted by Central Arkansas Friday, suffering a 7-1 loss to Creighton before rallying to top Grambling 20-3 at Farris Field.
With the split, Ball State moved its record to 4-2 on the young year.
Junior outfielder Jennifer Gilbert continued to dominate opposing pitchers by going 5-for-6 at the plate with two home runs and three intentional walks Friday. With her two homers, Gilbert raised her career total to 38 which is tied with Amanda Montalto (2009-12) for first in program history.
For the season, Gilbert is batting .778 (14-for-18) with five home runs and two doubles. She has scored 12 runs and has 12 RBI, while also drawing six walks for an .833 on base percentage.
Overall, the Cardinals posted a .361 batting average on the day, with junior third baseman Audrey Bickel adding her second career grand slam in the seventh inning versus Grambling to push across Ball State's final four runs of the game. Freshman Selena Reyna posted a 3-for-5 mark on the day, tallying her first career triple and driving in four RBI.
Also highlighting the final inning of the day for the Cardinals were the first career hits for freshman Sammi Cowger and Sasha Margulies.
Despite suffering the loss in the circle in versus Creighton, freshman hurler Nicole Steinbach turned in another solid performance, striking out a career-high 10 batters while allowing just two earned runs among the seven scored.
Fellow freshman pitcher Kelsey Schifferdecker nailed down the victory over Grambling by striking out five batters and allowing just one earned run over her 6.0 innings of work. Redshirt junior Lauren Williamson pitched the final inning versus the Tigers, striking out two of the five batters she faced.
The Ball State softball team continues play in the 2013 UCA Softball Tournament Saturday, with games versus Northern Iowa (9 a.m. CT) and Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3 p.m. CT).
RECAP: Ball State 1 - Creighton 7
After three scoreless innings, the Jays were able to capitalize with two outs in the top of the fourth to push across the game's first three runs. With two outs, both strikeouts by Steinbach, back-to-back singles put runners at first and second for the Jays.
Ball State looked to get out of the inning unharmed on a grounder by the next batter, but a throwing error to first led to the first run and kept the inning alive for a two-run double for Blair Lowe.
Trailing 3-0, the Cardinals posted their lone run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, when Gilbert blasted a 3-2 pitch over the right field wall.
Unfortunately, Creighton's Becca Changstrong would shut the Ball State offense down the rest of the game, as she allowed just two hits and an intentional walk to Gilbert after the blast. The Jays would score four runs in the seventh to make the final margin of victory 7-1.
In 6.2 innings of work for the Cardinals, Steinbach would strikeout 10 Creighton batters while allowing just seven hits. Of the Jay's seven runs in the game, only two were earned.
RECAP: Ball State 20 - Grambling 3
In their second game of the day, the Cardinals struck first in the top of the first thanks to a two-out error by the Tigers which allowed sophomore right fielder Hanne Stuedemann to score after being hit by a pitch in her first at bat.
Grambling would even the score in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single from Hilary Velsquez.
After a scoreless second inning, the Cardinals struck for one run over each of the next three innings to pull ahead 4-1 entering the fifth. Gilbert would lead off the third inning with her 38th career home run, while sophomore second baseman Taylor Cox scored thanks to a Stuedemann RBI single in the fourth. BSU's run in the fifth game on a RBI single from Reyna.
After freshman pitcher Schifferdecker shut down Grambling in the fifth inning, the Cardinals bats came to life as BSU tallied 16 runs over the final two innings, including a three-run triple from Reyna in the sixth and Bickel's second career grand slam in the seventh.
Grambling's final two runs came in the bottom of the sixth, as they brought the score within 9-3 before Ball State's 11-run seventh inning.
In all, the Cardinals tallied 20 runs on 19 hits in the contest, while drawing seven walks.
Schifferdecker would pick up her second career win in the circle, scattering five hits over 6.0 innings of work while striking out five batters. Of the three runs Grambling scored off Schifferdecker, only one was earned.