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   MUNCIE, Ind. - - It turns out the seventh time was the charm for the Ball State softball team, as they finally opened Mid-American Conference play with an 8-1 victory over Toledo Saturday afternoon at the BSU Softball Complex.

   After having their first six MAC games cancelled due to weather, the Cardinals (19-12, 1-0 MAC) scored eight runs on 11 hits against the Rockets (12-22, 4-3 MAC), including a 4-for-4 effort from senior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney).

    In addition to the strong offensive performance, sophomore pitcher Nicole Steinbach (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean) turned in a dominating showing in the circle, striking out seven Toledo batters while allowing just one run and six hits over 7.0 innings of work.

   Another highlight came from senior pinch hitter Lauren Schroeder (Greenfield, Ind./New Palestine) who smashed a two-out, three-run home run over the left-center field wall in her lone at bat of the contest.

   The Cardinals opened the game strong, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning. Sophomore second baseman Emily Dabkowski (Plainfield, Ind./South Putnam) started the rally with a one-out infield single and advanced to third on Gilbert’s first of three singles in the game. Senior third baseman Audrey Bickel (Munster, Ind./Andrean) drove in the first run of the game with a RBI fielder’s choice which brought home Dabkowski and allowed Gilbert to advance to third.

   Junior right fielder Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) followed with a walk to load the bases, setting up a RBI groundout from senior first baseman Taylor Rager (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern).

   After a scoreless second inning, Ball State put three more runs on the BSU Softball Complex scoreboard thanks to Schroeder’s two-out, three-run blast. Bickel and Rager scored on the drive, after reaching base via a single and walk, respectively.

   Sophomore center fielder Briana Evans (Tulsa, Okla./Union) doubled to open the fourth inning, reached third on a pass ball and scored the Cardinals’ sixth run of the game on a squeeze bunt from Dabkowski.

   Toledo would get its lone run of the game in the top of the sixth, as Ashley London singled up the middle to open the inning and eventually came around to score on a RBI single from Lani Ernst.

   Ball State countered by scoring the game’s final two runs in the bottom of the inning. Dabkowski walked to open the frame and came around to score on a stand-up triple to right field from Gilbert. Bickel followed with a RBI single to center field to drive home her classmate from third.

   For the most up-to-date news on Ball State softball, follow the team on Twitter: @BallStateSB and @TyraPerry13/ Instagram: ballstatesb / Facebook: BallStateSoftball

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