MUNCIE, Ind. - - For their part in guiding the Ball State softball team to a perfect 5-0 record at last weekend’s Louisville Slugger Invitational hosted by third-ranked Arizona State, senior outfielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) was named the Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week, while sophomore pitcher Nicole Steinbach (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean) was named the MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week.
For Gilbert, this is the 10th time in her career, and second consecutive week, she has been named the division’s top player. Steinbach is picking up the division’s top weekly pitching honor for the first time this season and the seventh time in her career. Overall the Cardinals have had at least one award winner during each of the first four weeks of play in 2014, sweeping the honors twice.
Highlighting the Cardinals’ perfect weekend was Sunday’s 3-0 victory over No. 3 Arizona State. It was Ball State’s first win over a top five opponent since defeating then-No. 3 Missouri by a score of 2-1 March 19, 2010. It was also ASU’s first loss to a MAC program since the 1996 season, snapping the league’s 26-game losing streak to the perennial national power and two-time Women’s College World Series Champion.
Gilbert turned in another strong weekend at the Louisville Slugger Invitational, leading the Cardinals with 10 RBI, nine runs scored, a 1.286 slugging percentage, five walks, a .600 on base percentage and three home runs. In the team’s biggest win of the season, Gilbert collected a two-out, two-run single to right field in the top of the seventh inning versus No. 3 Arizona State to extend Ball State’s lead to 3-0.
In the Cardinals’ first win over Detroit, Gilbert blasted a pair of home runs, including a two-out, two-run shot in the sixth inning to score what proved to be the game-winning run. Gilbert reached base safely in all five games over the weekend, and with her three RBI in the first game versus Detroit, became the first player in MAC history to record 200 career RBI.
Gilbert is the NCAA’s active career leader in RBI (204) and runs scored (181) , while her 61 career home runs are second only to Oklahoma’s Lauren Chamberlain who is at 62.
Steinbach turned in one of the most dominating performances of her career in picking up a complete game shutout victory over No. 3 Arizona State to cap the Cardinals perfect 5-0 run at the Louisville Slugger Invitational. Over 7.0 innings of work versus the Sun Devils, Steinbach limited one of the nation’s top batting teams to just six hits and no runs, while logging three strikeouts.
It marked just the second time the Sun Devils have been shutout over the past two seasons (2013 and 2014), with the previous coming in the 2013 Women’s College World Series versus Michigan (2-0).
In addition to dominating ASU, Steinbach rebounded from a rough game versus South Carolina to start the tournament, to earn saves in back-to-back games versus FIU and Detroit. She allowed just one hit over 2.2 innings of work combined in the team games, while striking out a pair of batters.
The Ball State softball team closes its tour through the state of Arizona Tuesday, with a scheduled 6 pm ET/4 pm MST doubleheader at No. 10 Arizona.