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► After playing its first 30 games on the road, the Ball State softball team opens the home portion of its 2017 schedule Wednesday at 4 p.m. when it welcomes Butler to the Softball Field at First Merchants Ballpark Complex … The Cardinals return to the road Friday, when it opens Mid-American Conference play versus Buffalo … Due to field conditions and the weather forecast, the teams will play a Friday doubleheader (1 p.m.) and a Saturday single game (9 a.m.) at D’Youville College’s Dobson Field.
► Ball State’s run of 30 consecutive road games to open the 2017 season is the third-longest in program history … The Cardinals played a program-record 32 straight road games to open last season, while starting the 2012 campaign with 31 straight road games.
► Over the past eight seasons, Ball State has proven to be the MAC’s premier program by compiling a 117-47 (.713) league record … Kent State is second on the list over the past eight seasons at 111-55 (.669), while Miami is third at 105-67 (.610) … Ball State boasts a 389-400-1 (.493) all-time MAC record in 34 years.
► The Cardinals enter Wednesday’s game versus Butler with a 954-1007-4 (.487) all-time record … Established as a varsity program in 1975, Ball State has won five Mid-American Conference regular season titles (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014), six MAC West Division crowns (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015), three MAC Tournament championships (1998, 2010 and 2015) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament three times (1998, 2010 and 2015).
► From Feb. 24 through March 11, the Ball State softball team played 17 straight games in the state of Florida … It’s the longest streak of games played in the same state in program history … The previous record was 16 games played in the state of Indiana to end the 2007 season.
► ALL-TIME VS BUTLER: The Ball State softball team snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 19-4 all-time versus Butler with a 7-1 victory over the Bulldogs last Saturday at the SIUE Tournament … In the win, the Cardinals jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first and never looked back … In fact, Ball State starting pitcher Aeshia Miles held the Bulldogs to just three hits over the first 6.2 innings, but Butler rallied for a walk and back-to-back singles to spoil what would have been Miles’ first career complete game shutout.
► VS BUTLER PART 2: Ball State holds an 8-3 lead over Butler in games played in Muncie … However, the Bulldogs scored a hard-fought 6-4 (11 inn.) victory in its last trip to the Softball Field at First Merchants Ballpark Complex on April 14, 2015 … The Cardinals held a 4-2 lead in the game entering the top of the seventh, but a two-out, two-run home run tied the score and sent the game to extra innings … The Bulldogs eventually scored two more runs in the top of the 11th to win the game.
► ALL-TIME VS BUFFALO: The Cardinals hold a 17-5 advantage in the all-time series with the Bulls, despite going 1-2 in a three-game home series last season … Buffalo swept both ends of an April 8 doubleheader by scores of 2-0 and 13-4 (5), before the Cardinals rebounded for a 5-3 victory to end the series April 9 … Senior Amanda Arnett drove in what proved to be the game-winning run in the contest with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the fifth.
► VS BUFFALO PART 2: Ball State is 6-2 all-time in games played at Buffalo, including five straight wins … No current Cardinal has played a collegiate game at Buffalo, as Ball State has not played a road game in the series since sweeping a two-game set in 2012 … Ball State won the first game on April 28 by a score of 9-5, while closing the series with a 13-0 (5 inn.) win April 29.
PLAYER / TEAM NOTES
► Ball State finished its 13-game spring break trip with an 8-5 record, doubling its win total from last season’s stay in the Sunshine State which saw the Cardinals go 4-8 … In fact, the eight wins are the most for Ball State on spring break since the 2012 squad went 8-2.
► Junior pitcher Carolyn Wilmes helped guide the Cardinals to their third straight victory and finish the SIUE Tournament with an unblemished 3-0 record by holding Northern Kentucky (March 19) to just two hits for her second career complete game shutout last Sunday … She struck out four batters in the game and retired 14 consecutive NKU players from the second to the seventh innings, aided in part by a third-inning double play.
► After her start against NKU, Wilmes enters the week with a 14.2 inning shutout streak … Over her last five appearances, Wilmes has allowed just three earned runs over 15.2 innings of work for a team-leading 1.34 ERA … She has compiled a 3-0 record during the run, including her first two career complete game shutouts … She has also struck out a team-high 15 batters while issuing just six walks.
► Senior slugger Rachel Houck enters the week as one of the nation’s top sluggers, ranking 20th among all NCAA Division I players in both doubles (10) and home runs (8) … Her eight home runs are also first in the Mid-American Conference, while her 10 doubles are tied for third … Houck ranks 22nd nationally in runs per game, with her 1.10 average also topping the MAC.
► Houck enters Wednesday’s game vs. Butler ranked sixth in program history with a .573 career slugging percentage … She is also 10th in home runs (15), 11th in batting average (.331) and 13th in on base percentage (.395) over her three-year playing career for the Cardinals … Houck played the 2014 season at Louisville before transferring to Ball State for the 2015 campaign.
► Houck also enters the week ranked third in the MAC with a team-leading 10 stolen bases … Houck is a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts this year and is the first Ball State player to steal at least 10 bases over the first 30 games of the season since Emily Dabkowski went 10-for-11 in 2015 … The last Ball State player to go a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen bases over the first 30 games was Loren Cihlar in 2013.
► Ball State has had a knack for earning free bases this season, as the Cardinals lead the MAC and rank 13th nationally with 115 walks … In fact, eight of Ball State’s nine starting position players rank in the top 15 in the MAC in walks, led by sophomore catcher Olivia Huffman who is second with 17.
► Huffman has also been hit by a pitch a league-leading eight times which ranks 50th nationally and has helped her earn a .405 on base percentage … Overall, Ball State’s batters have been hit by a pitch 17 times, giving the Cardinals a total of 132 free bases so far this season.
► Freshman slugger Janae Hogg leads the Ball State offense and ranks 11th in the MAC with a .374 batting average … Of her 34 hits on the season, she has seven doubles, a triple and three home runs, helping her rank 14th in the league with a .571 slugging percentage.
► Hogg has also proven to be one of the nation’s toughest batters to strike out, fanning just four times in 91 at bats … Her average of 22.8 at bats per strikeout ranks Hogg as the fourth-toughest player in the MAC and the 92nd-toughest in the nation to strikeout.
► Freshman left fielder Kennedy Wynn led the Ball State offense with 13 RBI over spring break, aided by three doubles, a triple and a home run … Among Wynn’s total were game-winning RBI versus St. Bonaventure (March 5), Florida Atlantic (March 9) and Brown (March 10) … She also scored five runs, including the game-winner versus Holy Cross (March 8) … Wynn’s three game-winning RBI pace the Cardinals.
► Ball State’s pitching staff enters the week ranked sixth in the MAC with a 3.08 ERA … It’s the program’s best ERA through the first 30 games of the season since the 2013 squad had a 2.93 ERA … In addition, Ball State’s pitchers have combined to strike out 146 batters so far this season which ranks third in the conference and is the best start to a season since the 2011 squad struck out 152 batters over the first 30 games.
► Freshman Darcie Huber enters the week with a team-leading 2.33 ERA which ranks ninth in the MAC … Over 66.0 innings of work, Huber has held opponents to just 63 hits for a .248 batting average against which is 11th in the MAC … She has also struck out 46 batters, including a career-high seven in her first career one-hitter versus Oakland (Feb. 24).
► Huber’s one-hitter versus Oakland (Feb. 24) was the first one-hitter for a Ball State pitcher since a 4-1 win at Bowling Green March 29, 2013 … In the game, Nicole Steinbach limited the Falcons to just one hit over 7.0 innings of work … She did not issue a walk or hit a batter, while the Cardinals’ defense committed three errors.
► Ball State’s last no-hitter came in a 7-0 win versus Buffalo May 12, 2010 in the MAC Tournament … Elizabeth Milian threw for the Cardinals, striking out 10 of the 22 batters she faced … The lone blemish was a one-out error in the second inning, spoiling a perfect game.
► In her first career pitching appearance versus DePaul (Feb. 10), sophomore Aeshia Miles became the 27th different Ball State player to earn a save when she limited the Blue Demons to no runs and two hits over 2.0 innings of work … Miles added her second career save versus Holy Cross (March 8), entering with a runner at first in the top of the seventh and getting the force play at second for the game’s final out.
► Miles earned her first career pitching victory in her next outing, picking up a complete game win at FAU (March 9) … Over 7.0 innings of work, she held the Owls to six hits and four runs while striking out a career-high six batters in the 9-4 win … Her second win came last Saturday versus Butler, when she held the Bulldogs to five hits and one earned run, while tying her career high with six strikeouts in a 7-1 victory.
► Freshman pitcher Alyssa Rothwell earned her first career victory versus Holy Cross (March 8) after holding the Crusaders to two hits over 4.2 innings of work … She struck out three batters in the game, only to top the mark in her next outing with four strikeouts versus Rutgers (March 11) … Her second win came at SIUE (March 18), when she allowed five hits and one earned run over 6.0 innings, while striking out three.
► The Ball State offense exploded for 17 runs to open play in the Wildcat Invitational with a 17-2 (5 inn.) victory over Drake (Feb. 17) … It was the team’s largest offensive output since a 19-9 home win over Indiana April 21, 2015 … Ball State’s largest run total in a game was a 24-0 victory over St. Leo March 2, 1987.