Login NowClose 
Sign In to thecouriertimes.com           
Forgot Password
or if you have not registered since 8/22/18
Click Here to Create an Account

Ball State offense erupts in softball sweep of Akron

By BRAD CAUDILL - BSU Athletic Department

MUNCIE — Ball State softball’s offense set the tone early, exploding for 11 runs in the opening inning before cruising to a doubleheader sweep of visiting Akron Saturday afternoon in Mid-American Conference play at the Softball Field at First Merchants Ballpark Complex.

The Cardinals (25-10; 3-0 MAC) went on to win the opening game 13-1 (5), before taking the nightcap 9-1 (6) to run its winning streak over the Zips (6-14-2; 0-3 MAC) to 10 games.

“Our bats were hot this weekend,” head coach Megan Ciolli Bartlett said. “We also had very strong performances on the mound, and I thought it was a great team effort. We used most of the lineup card this weekend and had a ton of contributors. Our team came out fired up, and just executed well in all facets.”

Overall, nine different players recorded at least one hit for the Cardinals over Saturday’s two games, with freshman second baseman Amaia Daniel, freshman center fielder Kim Manuel and freshman first baseman Mackenzie McCarty logging three apiece.

For the weekend, Ball State pounded out 29 hits for a .403 average and out-scored the Zips 36-8. Of the Cardinals’ 29 hits, 10 were doubles and three were home runs.

“Our depth is definitely a weapon for us,” Ciolli Bartlett said. “Each one of our players knows they have to be constantly locked in and focused. Our student-athletes thrive in this culture because they believe in each other and support one another. If we continue to keep our culture and our heart in the right place, then that depth becomes an incredible asset.”

Ball State’s all-around solid execution was on display from the very beginning of Saturday’s opening contest, as the Cardinals held Akron off the board and then sent 16 batters to the plate and scored 11 runs in the first inning.

Four of the runs came off the bat of Daniel, who opened the scoring with a two-run double to left and added a second two-run double later in the inning.

Freshman right fielder Trinity Eckerty added a two-run home run following Daniel’s first RBI double, and after a wild pitch plated a fifth Ball State run, junior left fielder Haley Dominique sliced a two-run double up the middle.

Following Daniel’s second two-run double of the inning, McCarty recorded a two-run double of her own to extend Ball State’s lead to 11-0.

Akron would score its lone run of the contest in the top of the second, as the lead runner scored on a failed double steal attempt. However, the Cardinals shut down the Zips from there, allowing just four base runners over the final three innings of the game.

Ball State’s final runs in the opener came on a sacrifice fly from sophomore third baseman Stacy Payton and an RBI double from sophomore designated player Kendall Fields in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Redshirt freshman pitcher Darcie Huber picked up the win for Ball State, allowing just four hits and one earned run over her 4.0 innings of work. She improved to 4-1 on the year with the victory. Senior Aeshia Miles pitched the final inning, striking out one of the four batters she faced.

In the nightcap, the Cardinals opened with another big first inning, scoring three quick runs to pull ahead 3-0. After Dominique reached base via an error to open the inning, Fields drove in the first run of the game with an RBI double to center. Daniel followed with her third RBI hit of the game, while a sacrifice fly from Eckerty two batters later moved the score to 3-0.

Following a scoreless second inning, Ball State doubled its lead with three more runs in the bottom of the third. McCarty drove in the first run with an RBI double three batters in, while Eckerty followed with her second RBI of the game on a single to left. Senior catcher Olivia Huffman drove in the final run of the inning with a one-out RBI infield single.

While Akron was able to push across a run in the top of the fifth, sophomore pinch hitter Kennedy Wynn countered with her second home run of the season in the bottom of the inning to give Ball State it’s six-run lead back at 7-1.

The Cardinals went on to score two more runs in the bottom of the sixth to give the game its final score of 9-1. The speedy Manuel reached base on an infield single to open the inning, then stole second for her second stolen base of the day.

Dominique followed with an RBI single, giving Ball State an 8-1 advantage. Three batters later, the inning looked to be over on a fly to left field, but the Akron fielder dropped the ball allowing Dominique to score the game-ending run from first.

In the circle, freshman Sarah Venker picked up her 12th win of the season by holding the Zips to just one hit over her 4.0 innings of work. She also struck out a pair of batters. Freshman Tieghan Morio threw the final 2.0 innings, also limiting Akron to one hit, while surrendering a run.

The Ball State softball team will face a tough test next weekend, when it travels to Kent State for another three-game MAC set which starts with a single game Friday (3 p.m.) and concludes with a doubleheader Saturday (1 p.m.). The Golden Flashes were picked to finish second in the league’s preseason poll, right behind the Cardinals.

“This was a great way to start MAC play,” Ciolli Bartlett said. “We have Kent State next weekend and we know they are going to be a top three finisher in the conference. They have two dynamic pitchers on the mound, they hit well, they defend well. We’re going to have to bring our “A” game on each side of the ball. It will be a tough challenge, but I think we’re up for it.”