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► THE SECOND SEASON STARTS NOW: The No. 1 seed Ball State softball team opens play in the 2013 Mid-American Conference Tournament Thursday with a 5 p.m. contest versus No. 4 Northern Illinois at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio . . . The Cardinals earned the tournament’s top seed and a double bye in the double elimination event by capturing the league’s regular season title. 

2013 MAC Softball Tournament Schedule:

   Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Game 1               No. 5 Miami (12-10 MAC) vs. No. 8 Toledo (8-14 MAC)                     11 a.m.

Game 2               No. 6 Ohio (9-13 MAC) vs. No. 7 Bowling Green (9-13 MAC)         1:30 p.m.
Game 3               Game 1 Winner vs. No. 4 Northern Illinois (14-8 MAC)                        5 p.m.
Game 4               Game 2 Winner vs. No. 3 Central Michigan (15-7 MAC)               7:30 p.m.

   Thursday, May 9, 2013
Game 5               Game 2 Loser vs. Game 3 Loser                                                           11 a.m.

Game 6               Game 1 Loser vs. Game 4 Loser                                                        1:30 p.m.
Game 7               Game 3 Winner vs. No. 1 Ball State (18-3 MAC)                                  5 p.m.
Game 8               Game 4 Winner vs. No. 2 Kent State (16-6 MAC)                           7:30 p.m.

   Friday, May 10, 2013
Game 9              Game 6 Winner vs. Game 7 Loser                                                        11 a.m.

Game 10            Game 5 Winner vs. Game 8 Loser                                                    1:30 p.m.
Game 11            Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner                                                      5 p.m.
Game 12            Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner                                              7:30 p.m.

   Saturday, May 11, 2013
Game 13            Game 12 Winner vs. Game 11 Loser                                                   11 a.m.

Game 14            Game 11 Winner vs. Game 13 Winner                                            1:30 p.m.
Game 15            Replay Game 14 - If Necessary                                                               4 p.m.

► LISTEN LIVE: Ball State Sports Link Radio WCRD 91.3 FM will continue its coverage of Ball State softball at the 2013 MAC Tournament with Torey Fox (play-by-play) and Andy Wright (color commentary) bringing fans the action LIVE over the airwaves on WCRD 91.3 FM in Muncie and online at BallStateSports.com ... To listen online for FREE, visit: http://ballstatesports.com/liveevents and click on the link when the event goes live.

► FOLLOW LIVE: Fans can follow the Cardinals at the 2013 MAC Tournament with live stats by visiting: http://ballstatesports.com/livestats ... Fans can also get regular updates by following the team on Twitter: @BallStSoftball and Facebook: BallStateSoftball

► CARDINALS ALL-TIME: After going 3-1 last weekend, the Ball State softball program enters the 2013 Mid-American Conference Tournament with an 852-913-4 (.483) all-time record in 38-plus seasons of play ... Established as a varsity program in 1975, Ball State has won four Mid-American Conference regular season titles (2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013), two MAC Tournament championships (1998 and 2010) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament twice (1998 and 2010).

► HEAD COACH CRAIG NICHOLSON: The 2013 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year, Craig Nicholson is the fastest coach in program history to eclipse the 100 and 200-win marks ... Nicholson picked up 950th collegiate coaching victory with a 10-4 win over Western Michigan April 7, while earning his 100th league win last Saturday with a 6-5 (8 inn.) victory over Kent State ... In his seventh season as Ball State’s head coach, Nicholson has amassed a 239-160 (.599) record at BSU, including a 100-47 (.680) ledger in MAC action ... Nicholson owns a 962-250 (.794) career coaching record including his 723-90 mark in 11 years at Central Arizona.

► MORE FROM THE COACHING FRONT: Craig Nicholson, who also earned the 2009 MAC Coach of the Year award, will be coaching his 400th career game at Ball State when the Cardinals take the field Thursday in the MAC Tournament ... Under his guidance, the program won its first-ever MAC regular season championship in 2009 with the best league record in program history at 18-3 and repeated the feat in 2010 with a 17-5 league mark ... The 2010 squad, which set program records for wins in a season (43) and winning percentage in a season (.729), also captured just the second MAC Tournament title in program history to advance to the NCAA Tournament ... The Cardinals added a third MAC regular season crown in 2012 by virtue of its 17-3 league mark, while capturing its fourth league title in five seasons by tying the best league record in program history at 18-3 this season.

► SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: Picked as the preseason favorite to win both the 2013 Mid-American Conference West Division title and the 2013 MAC Tournament as voted on by the league’s 12 head coaches, the Cardinals enter the league tournament with a 35-15 overall record and an 18-3 MAC mark ... Junior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert, the 2013 MAC Player of the Year, leads the MAC at the plate with a .451 (73-for-162) batting average, 65 RBI and 52 runs scored ... In the circle, 2013 MAC Freshman of the Year Nicole Steinbach has thrown a league-best six complete game shutouts, owns a team-best 2.19 ERA and is limiting opposing batters to a .236 average ... As a team, the Cardinals own a MAC-best .312 batting average and rank fourth in the league with a 2.81 ERA ... BSU’s opponents are batting .257 and have a 6.04 ERA in the circle.

► RPI UPDATE: Based on the strength of its 35-15 record entering the week, the Ball State softball team was ranked 62nd in this week’s NCAA RPI rankings ... The Cardinals’ highest ranking of the season came April 15 with BSU holding the No. 50 slot among the 291 ranked NCAA Division I softball programs ... Ball State is the top-ranked team in the Mid-American Conference with Kent State second at 112 ... The Cardinals are also the second-best team in the state of Indiana, trailing only Notre Dame (42nd).

► MAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: For the second consecutive season, Jennifer Gilbert has been named the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year ... Gilbert is just the fourth player in MAC history to earn the league’s top honor twice in a career, joining Central Michigan’s Pam Stanley (1991 & 1992), Central Michigan’s Tina Kinney (1998 & 2000) and Eastern Michigan’s Lauren Clark (2006 & 2007) ... Overall, Ball State players have garnered MAC Player of the Year honors six times: Bernie Coffman (1989), Katie Shea (2002), Alicia Barkley (2009), Jessie Ware (2010) and Gilbert (2012 & 2013).

► GILBERT IN MAC PLAY: Jennifer Gilbert earned her second straight MAC Player of the Year award by ranking second in league-only contests with a .446 batting average, while ranking first in slugging percentage (.973), RBI (34), runs scored (23), home runs (11) and total bases (72) ... Her 34 RBI were 11 better than the next closest player, while her 23 runs scored were three better than second place, both of which were teammates ...  Gilbert had 10 multiple-hit games in MAC play, including four games with three-or-more hits ... She also had 11 multiple-RBI games in league action, with four RBI in one game and six RBI in another ... She reached base safely in 19 of BSU’s 21 league games, while also posting a 14-game hitting streak in MAC action ... Gilbert posted six game-winning RBI, scored two game-winning runs and blasted a pair of seventh-inning, game-tying home runs to play a crucial role in 10 of BSU’s 18 league victories.

► MAC FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: On the strength of her 9-1 record and 2.06 ERA in Mid-American Conference play, Nicole Steinbach became the first player in program history to win MAC Freshman of the Year accolades ... A six-time MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week honoree this season, Steinbach has held opposing MAC teams to three-or-fewer hits in five starts, while holding teams to three-or-fewer runs in nine of her 11 appearances.

► ALL-MAC TEAMS: In addition to earning their specialty awards, Jennifer Gilbert was named to the All-MAC First Team, while Nicole Steinbach was named to the All-MAC Second Team and MAC All-Freshman Team ... Junior first baseman Taylor Rager joined Gilbert on the All-MAC First Team, while senior center fielder Amanda Carpenter joined Steinbach on the All-MAC Second Team ... In addition, shortstop Selena Reyna was also named to the MAC All-Freshman squad.

► MAC WEEKLY AWARDS: The Ball State softball team led the Mid-American Conference with eight MAC West Division Player of the Week selections and seven MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week honors this season ... Jennifer Gilbert earned the division’s player of the week nod four times this season, while freshman Nicole Steinbach is a six-time pitcher of the week honoree ... Overall, the Cardinals had at least one MAC weekly award winner in 10 of its 12 weeks of play this season, while sweeping the award five times; Feb. 19, March 19, March 25, April 1 and April 15 ... Gilbert and Steinbach have combined for three of the sweeps; Feb. 19, April 1 and April 15.

► RECORD BREAKER: With a two-run blast over the right-center field wall in the fourth inning of the nightcap at Florida International (March 5), Jennifer Gilbert became the program’s career home run leader ... Gilbert has tallied a Ball State single-season record 21 home runs this season to raise her career total to 54 ... The total is second in MAC history, trailing only Kelli Metzger’s (1996-99 for Akron) career mark of 57 ... Gilbert enters the MAC Tournament ranked second in the MAC in long balls this season, trailing only Lauren Gellerman’s (Ohio) total of 23.

► RECORD BREAKER PART 2: With her third career grand slam in the eighth inning of game two of the April 12 doubleheader at Akron, Jennifer Gilbert became the MAC’s all-time career RBI leader … Gilbert enters the MAC Tournament with 180 career RBI which is 13 better than the previous league standard of 167 set by Kelli Metzger from 1996-99.

► ON THE NCAA STATS FRONT: Jennifer Gilbert entered the week ranked fourth among all NCAA Division I players with her 65 RBI this season, while her 1.30 RBI-per-game average is fifth … In addition, Gilbert ranked fifth in slugging percentage (0.926), sixth in home runs per game (0.42), seventh in home runs (21), 14th in batting average (.451), 25th in runs per game (1.04) and 28th in on base percentage (.526).

► DOUBLING UP: Led by Amanda Carpenter’s MAC-best 18 doubles this season, the Ball State offense entered the week ranked third in the nation with a 1.82 doubles-per-game average ... Carpenter, who currently ranks second in program history with 51 career doubles, was 10th among all NCAA Division I players with her 0.37 doubles per game average ... As a team, the Cardinals have tallied 91 doubles this season which was 21 more than the next closest team in the MAC in Northern Illinois at 70 ... Ball State collected a program and MAC single-season record 100 doubles in 2012.

► MORE FROM CENTER FIELD: In addition to ranking second in program history with 51 career doubles, Amanda Carpenter is third in BSU annals in career hits (225) and RBI (149), while ranking fourth in career runs scored (139) and home runs (21) ... She boasts a .981 career fielding percentage, with 308 putouts and 10 outfield assists compared to just six errors ... In fact, Carpenter has played 105 consecutive games without an error.

► DOUBLING UP PART 2: The Ball State defense has picked up where it left off in 2012, turning 29 double plays so far this season ... Taylor Rager has had a hand in 22 of the twin killings, moving her into the top spot in program history with 51 career double plays turned ... Sophomore second baseman Taylor Cox has been involved in 16 of the twin killings this season, raising her career total to 39 which is second in program history ... BSU entered the week ranked fourth in the nation with both 29 double plays and a 0.58 double plays-per-game average this season ... Last season, the BSU defense led the nation with both 33 double plays turned and a 0.60 double plays-per-game average.

► THE RAGER FACTOR: In addition to being the program’s record holder in double plays turned, Taylor Rager is also quickly climbing up BSU’s career offensive charts ... Based on the strength of her .403 batting average this season, Rager has moved into fourth in program history with a .348 career batting average ... Her 26 career home runs rank third in BSU annals, while her 125 career RBI and 37 career doubles are both fifth.

► STEINBACH DOMINATING THE CIRCLE: In her 28 appearances this season, Nicole Steinbach has held teams to four-or-fewer hits 15 times and surrendered two-or-fewer earned runs 20 times ... She currently leads the league with six complete game shutouts, including three in MAC play ... She recorded a career-best 10 strikeouts versus Creighton (Feb. 22) and has tallied five-or-more Ks in an appearance 11 times ... Over 147.1 innings of work, Steinbach has limited opposing batters to a .236 average and has recorded 106 strikeouts.

► THE NATIONAL RANKINGS: The Ball State offense entered the week ranked 27th in the nation with its MAC-leading .312 team batting average, while its 1.82 doubles-per-game average was third ... The Cardinals offense also ranked in the top 25 nationally in scoring (6.68/10th), home runs per game (1.26/16th) and slugging percentage (.516/20th) ... Complete national rankings for the 2013 Ball State squad can be found on page 15.

► NCAA ACTIVE CAREER LEADERS: Jennifer Gilbert’s 54 career home runs placed her 11th among all active NCAA Division I players entering the week, while her 180 career RBI ranked 13th ... Gilbert also ranked in the top 25 in slugging percentage (.782/10th), doubles (46/17th) and runs scored (157/22nd) ... Amanda Carpenter entered the week ranked fifth among all active players with 51 career doubles, while placing in the top 40 in at bats (696/14th), hits per game (.323/29th), RBI (149/33rd) and runs scored (139/40th).


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