Ball State softball team poses for a team picture. PHOTO PROVIDED BY BALL STATE ATHLETICS
Softball freshmen make early impact
The Ball State softball team only has four freshmen on its roster and each of them have had significant playing time in their first year in Muncie.
Ball State is near the midway point of its season and each one of the freshmen has seen time in at least two-thirds of the games thus far.
“They’re doing a nice job,” head coach Megan Ciolli Bartlett said. “As they continue to get more experience under their belt and understand the expectations from the coaching staff and their teammates as a Ball State Cardinal, they’re just going to get better and better.”
Upcoming Schedule (Maryland Tournament)
Fri, Mar 18 - vs. Massachusetts
Sat, Mar 19 - vs. North Dakota State
Sat, Mar 19 - vs. Maryland
Sun, Mar 20 - vs. Boston
Catcher Madison Lee leads her first-year counterparts on the offensive side through the first 26 games of the season. Lee's batting average is at .382, which is good enough for second on the team.
The rest of the freshman have had their share of playing time as well. Infielders Aeshia Miles and Madeline Porter have each seen action in at least 20 games this season. Teammate shortstop Becca Rodriguez is not far behind, starting in each of the 18 games she has played in.
In addition to the lifestyle change met by most incoming college freshman, the players have had adjust to the college playing style and new set of teammates.
“Playing with a completely new group of people is always hard coming in and playing with a team that has already been together,” Lee said. “It’s definitely hard trying to fit in and trying to see how they play and making sure you’re on the same page.”
While Lee is making her presence known with her bat, Porter has opened the coaches' eyes with her defensive play at third base.
“Porter is doing a really good job at third. She’s settling in a little still, but some of the balls she gets to at third base your typical third baseman doesn’t get anywhere close to,” Bartlett said.
The rest of the infield is just as strong, with senior Emily Dabkowski continuing to produce at shortstop and junior Amanda Arnett batting .312 at first base, it leaves only one infield spot open for the two remaining freshman.
While there is a mix of players vying for the same starting spots in the lineup, Bartlett said that the competition is healthy.
“I very much believe in breeding competitiveness,” Bartlett said.” If you win the spot, then you win the spot. I don’t care if you’re a senior or a freshman or anywhere in between. If you step into the game and perform, then you’re going to win the spot.”
Rodriguez and Miles are creating that competition as they continue to compete for the starting spot at second base. Bartlett said that they're "competing and pushing each other."
In addition to on-the-field adjustments, each of the freshman had to adjust to the college lifestyle. None of them are from Indiana.
Lee and Rodriguez hail from the West Coast — Lee from Cerritos, California, and Rodriguez from Tuscon, Arizona. Miles and Porter are from the southern half of the United States — Miles from Lawrenceville, Georgia, and Porter from Birmingham, Alabama.
Class schedules and home-cooked meals have been what Porter has been adjusting to in her second semester.
“This semester I have all 8 a.m.s, so I’m getting used to that," Porter said. "The food, too. I’m not able to go home and have mom cook for me, and having to go get things by yourself."
Porter says she has benefited from learning from the five seniors on the team.
“The seniors have been a big help, it’s nice to have people to show and set examples for you,” Porter said.
Lee has had a more hands on experience from senior pitchers Nicole Steinbach and Kelsey Schifferdecker.
Being the starting catcher, she said having the experience on the mound has helped her play better behind home plate.
“I’ve learned a lot of the mental stuff, they’re really big on that. They try and share as much as they can with us,” Lee said. “As a catcher, I definitely look up to [Steinbach] a lot. ... She helps a lot of my catching, and she isn’t afraid to let me know when to work on something to get better.”
Ball State is two games away from its midway mark and sit a 12-14 after a 4-8 record over spring break. The Cardinals will open their home schedule on April 1 against Ohio.