Then-junior Amanda Arnett attempts to hit the ball in the game against Central Michigan on April 22 at the Varsity Softball Complex. Ball State lost against Oakland (5-1), losing 1-0. Allye Clayton // DN File
SEASON PREVIEW: Ball State softball faces tough schedule with overhauled roster
Ball State softball will have a new look in 2017.
Only seven players return from last season's team, and head coach Megan Ciolli Bartlett said she's ready to test the overhauled roster.
“We have 13 new players, so we are definitely making adjustments this season,” Ciolli Bartlett said. “The last senior class that just graduated was highly decorated. They were pretty impressive kids, so there will be big shoes to fill this season.”
31st Annual Louisiana Classic
-DePaul at 11 a.m.
-Southern Mississippi at 1:30 p.m.
-Lousiana at 5:30 p.m.
-Southern Mississippi at 8 p.m.
-Iowa State at 10 a.m.
The Cardinals will have plenty of opportunities against tough competition — playing 22 games against teams that finished in the top 100 of the final 2016 RPI rankings.
“If we want to play with the big dogs, we have to come in ready and prepared for that when it counts,” Ciolli Bartlett said. “Especially for these freshmen, I think it’s going to be really exciting and eye opening. But at the same time, it’s going to be really similar to what a regional tournament environment is going to be.”
However, the atmosphere on the field will be nothing new for returning senior utility player Amanda Arnett, who has 12 career home runs — including nine last season.
Senior outfielder Rachel Houck has a career .320 batting average and a .508 slugging percentage, but her 2016 season was cut short by an injury.
“We’re excited about our returning players," Ciolli Bartlett said. "They’re talented, they work hard, but with 13 new kids and a new head coach, we are trying to collectively create the culture and the expectations that we all envisioned.”
Junior pitcher Carolyn Wilmes will also return to the Louisiana Classics for the second season in a row. Last season, Wilmes threw 2 scoreless innings against Louisiana and 2.1 scoreless innings versus Southern Mississippi. She finished the season with a 5.63 ERA, and was second on the team to then-senior Nicole Steinbach with 87 innings pitched.
The Cardinals will play their first games of the season Feb. 10 at the 31st annual Louisiana Classics in Lafayette, Louisiana, against a pair of top 100 opponents in DePaul and Southern Mississippi.
“DePaul is a storied program, especially for a cold weather place,” Ciolli Bartlett said. “They won their conference last season and they’re going to be tough.”
On the second day of the tournament, the Cardinals will face the NCAA Norman Super Regional runner-up and tournament host Louisiana-Lafayette, along with another game against Southern Mississippi. Ball State will close out the weekend against Iowa State on Sunday.
After finishing 19-29 (5-13 MAC) last season, the Cardinals are prepared to adjust to move toward their goal of winning a Mid-American Conference Championship this season.
“It’s probably something we talk about on a daily basis," Ciolli Bartlett said. "I think it’s something this group of players is extremely committed to this season.”
The Cardinals will take the field at 11 a.m. Feb. 10 to open their season against DePaul at Lamson Park in Lafayette.