Game 52 - No. 2 Ball State vs. No. 7 Northern Illinois
Wednesday, May 9, 3:30 p.m. at Firestone Stadium (Akron, Ohio)
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• THIS WEEK IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL:
After a thrilling end to the regular season, the Ball State softball team heads to Firestone Stadium in Akron, Ohio, for the 2018 MAC Softball Championship (May 9-12) ... As the No. 2 seed in the event, the Cardinals open play at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday against No. 7 seed Northern Illinois ... The winner advances to play the winner of No. 3 Toledo vs. No. 6 Central Michigan on Thursday at 3:30 p.m., while the loser of each game battles it out in Thursday's 6 p.m. elimination game.
• HOW THE WEST & NO. 2 SEED WAS WON:
In the final game of the 2018 regular season, the Cardinals clinched both the second seed in the MAC Tournament and the program's seventh MAC West Division Championship with a thrilling 2-1, nine-inning victory over divisional co-champion Toledo ... The game was scoreless until the top of the eighth when an RBI single from junior catcher Olivia Huffman
put the Cardinals on the board ... The Rockets countered with an unearned run in the bottom of the inning to force a second extra frame ... The Cardinals were able to capitalize on a Toledo defensive miscue in the ninth, which ultimately set up an RBI double from senior second baseman Maddy Labrador
to drive in what proved to be the game-winning run.
• MORE ON THE BIG WIN:
While Ball State produced 13 hits in the season finale versus Toledo, it was the team's pitching which stole the show ... Facing a must-win situation to capture the MAC West Division crown, junior starter Aeshia Miles
threw 7.1 innings of hitless softball ... After a pair of singles and a Ball State error helped Toledo tie the score with bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the eight, sophomore closer Alyssa Rothwell
entered the game and forced an inning-ending double play ... Rothwell would go on to earn the victory, following Maddy Labrador
's RBI double in the top of the ninth, by retiring the Rockets in order in the bottom of the inning.
• BALL STATE IN THE MAC SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP:
Ball State enters the 2018 MAC Softball Championship with a 24-23 all-time record in league tournament play ... The Cardinals won the event in 1998, 2010 and 2015 with perfect 4-0 marks ... Ball State was also the runner-up in the 2001 tournament with a 3-2 record ... A complete MAC Tournament history can be found on page four.
• ALL-TIME ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM:
Three Ball State student-athletes have earned Most Valuable Player honors at the MAC Softball Championship: Hanne Stuedemann (2015), Elizabeth Milian (2010) and Heather Hinkle (1998) ... Overall, 17 different Ball State players have garnered all-tournament accolades.
• SERIES VERSUS NIU:
Ball State narrowed the Huskies' lead in the all-time series to 31-45 after winning both ends of an April 11 doubleheader in DeKalb, Illinois ... The Cardinals won the first game, 1-0, behind a combined one-hit shutout from senior pitcher Carolyn Wilmes
and Alyssa Rothwell
... After falling behind 5-4 entering the seventh of the nightcap, the Cardinals took the second game by a score of 6-5 with the help of a two-run NIU error in the top of the seventh ... Overall, Ball State has won four of the last five meetings between the two teams.
• AGAINST NIU IN THE TOURNEY:
In addition to leading the overall series, the Huskies have been the bane of the Cardinals in tournament play, holding a 6-2 edge over Ball State in the event ... The Huskies have eliminated the Cardinals from four tournaments (2000, 2002, 2013 & 2014) ... However, one of Ball State's wins versus Northern Illinois came in 2001, when the Cardinals eliminated the Huskies with a 2-1 win to advance to the championship game.
• SCOUTING NORTHERN ILLINOIS:
The Huskies enter Wednesday's tournament showdown with a 21-30 overall record and an 11-11 league mark ... NIU clinched the seventh seed by winning the first two games of its three-game series versus Central Michigan last weekend ... The Huskies scored a 4-1 win Friday and a 4-3 victory in Saturday's opener ... The Chippewas took Saturday's nightcap, 6-2 ... Jenny Van Geertry leads NIU with a .399 batting average, 42 runs scored and 12 doubles, while her 25 RBI are third on the team ... Sam Schmidt is second on the squad with a .373 average and 28 RBI ... Alex Frenz has thrown a team-high 106.0 innings and has a team-low 2.58 ERA to go along with a 9-6 record and 50 strikeouts ... Tara Thacker is 5-11 in the circle, has a 4.20 ERA and a team-high 56 strikeouts ... As a team, NIU has a .279 batting average, a 3.53 ERA and a .957 fielding percentage.
BALL STATE TEAM/PLAYER NOTES
Ball State earned the 1,000th win in program history with a 7-6 victory over Western Michigan in the second game of an April 13, 2018 doubleheader ... After the Broncos rallied for three runs in the top of the sixth to tie the game, sophomore left fielder Haley Dominique
drove in the eventual game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI double to left-center field ... Freshman pinch runner Taylor Castleberry
scored what proved to be the game-winning run, scoring from first on Dominique's two-out double.
Ball State played its first 33 games of the season on the road which is the longest stretch of road games in program history ... Ball State played 32 straight road games to open the 2016 season, while starting the 2012 campaign with 31 straight road games.
Ball State softball enters the MAC Tournament with a 1007-1036-4 (.493) all-time record ... Established as a varsity program in 1975, Ball State has won five MAC regular season titles (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014), seven MAC West Division crowns (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2018), three MAC Tournament championships (1998, 2010 and 2015) and advanced to the NCAA Regionals three times (1998, 2010 and 2015).
Since 2009, Ball State has proven to be the MAC's premier program by compiling a 147-64 (.697) league record ... Kent State is second over the same span at 140-73 (.657), while Ohio is third at 131-85 (.606) ... Northern Illinois is currently sixth on the list at 116-101 (.535) ... In addition, Ball State boasts a 419-417-1 (.501) all-time MAC record over 36 years.
Ball State enters the week ranked third in the MAC and 36th nationally with a .465 slugging percentage ... The Cardinals lead the MAC and are 23rd among all NCAA Division I programs with a 1.49 doubles-per-game average, while Ball State's 1.04 home runs-per-game average is second in the MAC and 23rd nationally.
Ball State is also one of the nation's best teams at getting runners on base, with the program's .396 on base percentage leading the MAC and ranking 23rd nationally ... Sophomore left fielder Haley Dominique
is second in the conference and 55th nationally with a .492 OBP, while Janae Hogg
ranks sixth in the MAC and 144th in the country at .457.
The Ball State pitching staff enters the week ranked second in the MAC with a 2.62 team ERA ... Sophomore closer Alyssa Rothwell
owns a league-low 1.69 ERA over 70.1 innings, while junior starter Aeshia Miles
is third in the MAC with a 2.01 ERA over 171.0 innings.
Ball State's pitching staff also ranks second in the conference with 304 strikeouts, which is the fourth-best single season total in program history ... All three Cardinals pitchers rank in the top 14 in the league in total strikeouts, with Aeshia Miles
in fourth (147), Carolyn Wilmes
in 10th (87) and Alyssa Rothwell
in 14th (69).
Ball State's pitching staff has been particularly effective over the last three weeks, owning a 1.36 ERA and a 7-2 record in series wins over Central Michigan (April 20-21), at Eastern Michigan (April 27-28) and at Toledo (May 4-5) ... Alyssa Rothwell
has a 0.47 ERA and a .122 batting average against in her 15.0 innings of work during the span, while Aeshia Miles
is right behind with a 0.59 ERA and a .163 opponents' batting average over her 35.1 innings.
• Alyssa Rothwell
recorded her 10th save of the season in last Friday's 1-0 victory at Toledo ... Her 10 saves are a MAC single season record, topping the previous mark of eight set by BGSU's Lisa Mountjoy in 1993 ... Rothwell is just the 20th player in NCAA Division I history to log double-digit saves in a single season ...The NCAA record for saves in a season is 15 set by Canisius' Mallory Aldred in 2008 and tied by FGCU's Taylor Bauman this season.
In addition, Alyssa Rothwell
13 career saves are three shy of the MAC career record of 16 set by BGSU's Jamie Kertes (2012-15) ... The NCAA Division I career record is 32 set by Mississippi State's Kellie Wilkerson from 1999-2002.
Of Ball State's 16 league wins, Alyssa Rothwell
has factored in 10, boasting a 4-0 record and six saves ... Over 18 appearances and 32.0 innings of work, Rothwell is holding MAC opponents to a league-low .152 batting average and has the second-lowest ERA at 1.31 ... She has struck out 35 batters in MAC action, while having a hand in three shutout victories.
A five-time MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week this season, Aeshia Miles
helped guide the Cardinals to the No. 2 seed in the MAC Softball Championship and a share of the MAC West Division Championship by turning in a 0.00 ERA and holding Toledo to a .109 batting average over 13.1 innings last weekend ... She helped shutout the Rockets in last Friday's series opener, allowing just three hits over 6.0 innings in the 1-0 victory ... In Saturday's series finale, Miles took it up a notch by no-hitting Toledo through the first 7.1 innings ... She struck out six batters in the game and yielded one unearned run in the eighth.
It's been an interesting career for Aeshia Miles
, who was originally recruited as a fielder ... In fact, Miles has earned 90 starts at eight different positions over her Ball State career; 34 (P), 22 (3B), 17 (2B), six (LF), five (RF), four (1B), one (CF) and one (DP) ... She made her first career pitching appearance in the 2017 season opener versus DePaul (Feb. 10), starting the game in left field before entering the circle to throw the final two innings and earn her first career save.
• Aeshia Miles
earned her first career no-hitter in Ball State's 8-0 (6) victory over Robert Morris (March 2) ... She retired the first 17 batters she faced before issuing a two-out, sixth-inning walk to spoil the perfect game ... She responded by inducing a grounder to herself for the final out to also lock up her first career complete game shutout ... Miles also joined Alyssa Rothwell
in a combined no-hitter versus St. Bonaventure (March 17) ... Miles threw the first 3.0 innings with the only baserunners coming from a pair of Ball State errors ... Rothwell pitched the final two, with her only baserunner coming via a walk.
• Carolyn Wilmes
has established herself as one of the top 10 starting pitchers in program history ... Wilmes is currently eighth in program history with 296 career strikeouts and ninth with 34 career wins ... She is also tied for sixth in appearances (105), seventh in starts (74) and ninth in innings pitched (394.2).
Ball State enters the week with the 43rd-most prolific scoring offense in the country, averaging 5.39 runs per game ... The Cardinals have scored six-or-more runs in 21 games, owning an 20-1 record in those contests ... In fact, Ball State has scored six-or-more runs in an inning 10 times this season.
• Maddy Labrador
enters the MAC Tournament having reached base safely in each of the last 23 games she has played ... During the run, which started with a 3-for-3 day at the plate versus Rhode Island (March 16), Labrador leads the Ball State offense with a .446 (33-for-74) batting average, nine home runs, nine doubles, a .932 slugging percentage, a .522 on base percentage, 33 RBI and 24 runs scored.
A two-time MAC West Division Player of the Week, sophomore left fielder Haley Dominique
leads the Ball State offense and ranks fourth in the MAC with a .394 batting average ... Dominique's team-leading 42 runs scored are tied for third in the MAC, while her 36 RBI are third on the team and 11th in the league ... She also tallied Ball State's first triple of the season versus Fordham (March 2) and hit the Cardinals' first grand slam of the year against Robert Morris (March 2).
A .345 career batter, Haley Dominique
enters the week ranked third on Ball State's career list with a .460 on base percentage, including a team-best .492 mark so far this season ... Dominique has reached base safely in 47 of Ball State's 51 games this season ... She has also put together a career-long 12-game hitting streak and a career-best 17-game streak of reaching base safely this season.
• Janae Hogg
's 13 home runs, which rank second in the MAC and 48th nationally, are tied as the seventh-best single season total in program history ... Maddy Labrador
11 home runs are not far behind, tying for 11th on Ball State's single season chart ... Hogg and Labrador are also tied for 11th in program history with 18 career home runs.
• Janae Hogg
leads Ball State's active players with 12 career game-winning RBI, including her six this season ... Seven of her 12 career game-winning RBI have come via the long ball; vs. Miami (April 2, 2017), at Northern Illinois (April 4, 2017), vs. Boston University (Feb. 17. 2018); at New Mexico State (Feb. 17, 2018), vs. Florida A&M (March 9, 2018), at Bowling Green (March 24, 2018) and at Eastern Michigan (April 28, 2018).
Another key component to Ball State's offense in MAC play has been junior designated player/first baseman Annie Robinson
who has tallied six of her seven home runs in league play ... Perhaps Robinson's biggest blast came in last Friday's win at Toledo, when her solo shot to open the second inning drove in the only run of the contest and gave the Cardinals the early advantage in the pivotal league series.
Ball State batters have drawn 219 walks so far this season which ranks first in the MAC and third nationally ... Janae Hogg
leads the Cardinals and is second in the MAC with 43 walks ... The team total already ranks as the second-best single season mark in program history, trailing only the 238 walks drawn by the 2008 squad.