PREVIEW: Ball State softball returns to Florida to compete in Under Armour Invitational
Ball State softball (3-11) will return to Florida this weekend to compete in the Under Armour Invitational. Bringing home zero wins in four games last weekend, the Cardinals are looking to improve their offense.
“The bats have to get hot,” head coach Megan Ciolli Bartlett said. “The time has come. We need to do a better job at pitch selection from the plate and really need to focus on staying back and driving the ball. I think we can turn around quick.”
Only scoring five runs in four games last weekend, Ball State is adjusting their offense this weekend. Junior Maddy Labrador, who was out last weekend due to an injury, will be back to the roster on Friday.
Under Armour Invitational Schedule
Friday 11:30 a.m. University of Hartford
2 p.m. University of Pennsylvania
Saturday 12:30 p.m. Towson University
3 p.m. University of South Florida
Sunday 9 a.m. St. Bonaventure University
“Our leadoff hitter, Maddy Labrador, does a phenomenal job in that leadoff spot and she’s been out all week with an injury,” Ciolli Bartlett said. “Rachel Houck did a really good job kind of filling in from the two spot to the one spot. Rachel is also our biggest RBI producer, so to have her in the leadoff spot coming up with big hits is great. But, it obviously takes away from our power down in the middle of the lineup.”
Playing in nine of the Cardinals' 14 games this season, Labrador has eight runs and eight hits with a .320 batting average. Labrador will go back in the lineup as the leadoff batter this weekend.
“Maddy is definitely going to hit this week and that’s going to help our offense out a little more,” Ciolli Bartlett said. “The middle of the lineup just needs to do a better job of picking good pitches and driving the ball.”
With the strong pitching performances the team has seen from junior Carolyn Wilmes and freshman Darcie Huber, Ciolli Bartlett is looking forward to seeing her offense back up her defense.
“Carolyn and Darcie are just coming along very nicely,” Ciolli Bartlett said. “They do a great job on the mound and can both work up and down. They both spin the ball really well. However, we have to execute offensively, and sometimes that doesn’t mean come up with the big hits. It means, when I call for a bunt, it had to get down the first time.”
Leading the Ball State offense, freshman Janae Hogg is batting .359 this season. She has 14 hits, five RBIs and a homerun so far this season.
Ciolli Bartlett would like to see the rest of the freshmen get the opportunity that Hogg has taken advantage of this season.
“The freshmen are going to get a lot more opportunities this week and I’m really excited about it,” Ciolli Bartlett said. “By the time we get back from spring break, we’re going to have a really good idea of what every person on the roster is capable of.”
Ball State will kick off a five-game run at the Under Armour Invitational in Clearwater, Florida against Hartford (2-2) at 11:30 a.m. Friday. They will conclude Friday’s double-header at 2 p.m. against Pennsylvania.
“As we continue to learn our personnel, and move on and adjust a little bit, nobody is in panic mode yet and that’s the good part,” Ciolli Bartlett said. “We do have some talented hitters. It just happens to be that everybody went cold at once. It’s hard to win ball games that way.”
The Cardinals will stay in Florida over spring break, playing three games at the FCGU Softball Complex March 7-8, and five more games March 9-11 at the Parents' Weekend Tournament at the FAU Softball Stadium.