MUNCIE, Ind. – The Ball State softball team continued to show its never-say-die attitude Tuesday afternoon, earning a pair of come-from-behind wins over Mid-American Conference rival Northern Illinois at the Softball Field at First Merchants Ballpark Complex.
Trailing 2-0 in the opener, the Cardinals (23-17, 7-1 MAC) used a second-inning two-run home run from sophomore catcher Olivia Huffman (Woodbury, Minn./South Dakota) to tie the score. Freshman third baseman Janae Hogg (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral)followed with a solo shot in the fifth to give the game its final score of 3-2. It was the fourth game-winning RBI for Hogg in five games.
The Huskies (16-14, 4-4 MAC) used a second-inning grand slam to jump out to a 4-0 lead in the nightcap, only to see the Cardinals chip away at the advantage with one run in the third and three more in the sixth. Senior first baseman Amanda Arnett (Monroe, Mich./Monroe) then provided Ball State’s third walk-off win in MAC play with a two-run homer to right-center field in the bottom of the seventh to hand the Cardinals a 6-4 victory.
In the circle, the Cardinals received another solid performance in the opener from junior Carolyn Wilmes (Evansville, Ind./Matre Dei) who picked up her 10th win of the season by limiting the Huskies to five hits and a pair of first-inning runs. Wilmes, who struck out three in the game, held NIU to just three base runners after the first inning.
In the second game, freshman Alyssa Rothwell (Ashville, Ohio/Teays Valley) settled in after a shaky start, limiting the Huskies to just two base runners after the second inning. She retired NIU in order in the third, fourth and seventh innings, while getting a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play to face the minimum number of batters in the sixth. She also struck out seven batters over her 7.0 innings of work to improve to 4-1 on the year.
With the two wins, Ball State improves to 6-0 at home and ups its current winning streak to six games. The Cardinals also took over sole possession of first place in the MAC standings with a 7-1 league record as Ohio (6-2 MAC) split a doubleheader at Kent State.
Next up for the Ball State is a three-game weekend showdown with MAC East Division leading Ohio. The teams are scheduled to play a 3 p.m. single game Friday and a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday.
GAME 1 RECAP: Ball State 3 – Northern Illinois 2
Much like last Saturday’s series opener versus Miami, the Cardinals found themselves in an early hole as Norther Illinois jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of RBI singles in the top of the first inning.
However, the Cardinals were able to battle back and tie the score in the bottom of the second thanks in part to a NIU defensive miscue. Sophomore designated player Madison Lee (Cerritos, Calif./Cerritos) opened the inning by reaching base on an error from the Huskies second baseman. Two outs later, Huffman made NIU pay for the miscue with her first Ball State home run, a two-run blast over the First Merchants sign on the center field fence.
Behind Wilmes’ strong pitching, the score remained tied until the bottom of the fifth, when Hogg blasted a home run long enough to rival former Ball State All-American and current Cardinals assistant coach Jenny Gilbert. Her solo shot to left-center field was gone as soon as it left the bat and traveled an estimated 270 feet.
Wilmes took care of the rest, including retiring the side in order in the top of the seventh on three consecutive groundouts back to herself.
GAME 2 REACP: Ball State 6 – Northern Illinois 2
After walking the first two batters she face in the game, Rothwell was able to get out of a first inning jam with a pair of strikeouts. Unfortunately, she was unable to do the same in the second inning as a one-out error and single, followed by a two-out walk loaded the bases. NIU’s Bekah Harnish followed by depositing a 2-2 pitch over the center field fence to give Northern Illinois a 4-0 lead.
However, like the game before it, the Cardinals retaliated with six unanswered runs starting in the third inning. Junior second baseman Maddy Labrador (Lexington, S.C./Spartanburg Methodist) led off the inning with a triple and scored on NIU’s first critical error of the game. On a routine popup to shallow center field, the Huskies shortstop caught the ball, but instead of throwing home, lost her grip on the ball and threw it into the first base dugout allowing Labrador to score.
The Cardinals capitalized on two more NIU errors in the bottom of the sixth to tie the score at 4-4. Junior first baseman Danae King (Glendale, Ariz./Phoneix College) opened the frame with a single up the middle. Freshman right fielder Kennedy Wynn (New Albany, Ind./New Albany) drew a walk in the next at bat, to put sophomore pinch runner Aeshia Miles (Lawrenceville, Ga./Collins Hill) on second.
The Huskies shortstop then misplayed a routine grounder by Arnett to load the bases. The Huskies looked to get the first out of the inning when junior pinch hitter Cadie O’Donnell (Salina, Kan./Barton CC) slapped the ball to short, but this time a throwing error by the NIU shortstop on the force play at home allowed both Miles and Wynn to score.
With a pair of runners in scoring position, Huffman drew her league-leading 23rd walk of the season to set up a one-out RBI single from freshman left fielder Haley Dominique (Oregon, Ohio/Clay) which tied the score at 4-4.
After Rothwell retired the Huskies in order in the top of the seventh, the Cardinals came up with some more walk-off magic to end the game. Lee singled to open the inning, and was replaced by freshman pinch runner Tara Morey (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine). The Cardinals looked to play a little small ball to push the run across, as Wynn laid down her second sacrifice bunt of the game to move Morey into scoring position.
With a runner in scoring position, the Cardinals only needed a hit to win the game, and a hit they got as Arnett blasted her third home run of the season over the fence in left field for Ball State’s third walk-off win in five games.
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