Opening spring break with a 2-3 campaign in the Citrus Classic II in Kissimmee, Ball State softball (15-8, 0-0 MAC) dove deeper into its spring break schedule with a mid-week matchup against Virginia Tech (11-12, 1-2 ACC) and UCF (15-8, 0-0 American) before it closed the week in the FAU Parents' Weekend Tournament.

After a short break from last weekend’s tournament, including a stop at Disney World, the Cardinals were back in action on Tuesday to take on Virginia Tech and UCF at the UCF Softball Complex.

The Cardinals met the Hokies in their first match up of the day. The Cardinals opened up scoring early with a triple from senior Maddy Labrador to score freshman Hailey Demnianiuk and sophomore Haley Dominique for an early 2-0 lead in the first. The Hokies answered in the third and fourth to score three runs and to take the lead, 3-2. In the seventh, the Cardinals took control of the game as a bunt from Demnianiuk scored freshman Katie Janiga to tie the game at three. Dominique scored the game-winning run off of a wild pitch to give the Cardinals a 4-3 win over the Hokies.

On the mound, senior Carolyn Wilmes and sophomore Alyssa Rothwell split the game. Wilmes allowed three runs on four hits over four innings. Rothwell closed the game, allowing no runs and striking out two over the course of three innings.

In the afternoon slot, the Cardinals faced host UCF. The Cardinals are 2-1 this season against American Conference competition with two wins over East Carolina and a loss to Memphis.

Sophomore Janae Hogg opened the game with a homer to give the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead in the first. Hogg currently leads the team in home runs this season with eight. However, the Black Knights would answer in the fourth inning with a home run from freshman Kaitlyn Jensen to bring two home and give the Black Knights a 2-1 lead. The Cardinals didn't find home plate for the rest of the game as the Black Knights won the game, 2-1.  Junior Aeshia Miles pitched the entirety of the game, allowing two runs on six hits and striking out six.

Wrapping up a 12-game stretch, the Cardinals headed southeast for the FAU Parents' Weekend Tournament. Ball State opened against another Atlantic Coastal Conference foe in Pittsburgh (13-9-1, 2-1 ACC).

Right out of the gate, the Panthers took control of the game. Junior Gabrielle Fredericks led off with a home run to give Pitt a 2-0 lead in the first. The bats continued to come alive for the Panthers as they would hit three home runs in the fourth to finish the inning with a 5-0 lead. In the sixth, a throwing error from the Cardinals would add another tally for the Panthers. The Cardinals got on the board in the sixth inning off of a single from Demnianiuk to score Janiga. The Panthers took the game, 6-1. Wilmes and Rothwell split the game. Wilmes struck out nine over the course of four innings. Rothwell closed out the game, allowing one run on three hits.

About thirty minutes later, the Cardinals were back on the field to take on host FAU (11-13, 0-0 Conference USA).

The Cardinals opened up scoring with a single from Dominique to score senior Danae King for a 1-0 lead. The Owls took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning off of a bunt from junior Samantha Lageyre to score two. In the sixth, sophomore Kennedy Wynn homered to score two and give the Cardinals a 3-2 edge. Wynn slammed another one over the fence to bring in Dominique and Labrador for a 5-2 lead. Lageyre scored again for the Owls, but it was Dtoo late as the Cardinals took the game, 5-3.

On the mound, Miles came up clutch as she struck out 10 batters on the way to a victory. Miles played the entirety of the game, allowing three runs on eight hits.

The Cardinals opened up their second day in Boca Raton against a familiar opponent in LIU Brooklyn (7-14, 0-0 NEC). The Cardinals dominated the Blackbirds, 10-2, earlier this season in the FGCU Kickoff Classic.

Through four innings, the game remained scoreless until senior Angie Vazquez hit a double to put the Blackbirds on the board, 1-0. In the fourth inning, it was all Cardinals. Hogg hit another home run to tie the game at one. Junior Madison Lee followed Hogg's lead as she hit a three-run homer to give Ball State a 4-1 lead. In the fifth inning, freshman Stacy Payton doubled to score Wynn, Labrador and senior Cadie O’Donnell for a 7-1 lead. Payton found home off of a fielding error to add another tally to the Cardinals 4-0 run in the fifth inning. The Cardinals came out on top against the Blackbirds once again, 8-1.

In the pitching circle, Miles proved to be dominant once again, striking out six and allowing one run on six hits over the course of six innings. Rothwell closed the game in the final inning.

In the afternoon slot, Ball State faced Florida A&M (4-12, 0-0 MEAC).

In the second, Demnianiuk's RBI single scored Wynn for an early 1-0 lead. A fielding error in the third inning would cost the Cardinals as the Rattlers would take a 3-1 lead. Fielding continued to haunt the Cardinals later in the fourth as the rattlers would add another run to their lead off of a wild pitch from Wilmes.

In the fifth, the Cardinals began to make a comeback as Dominique would double to score Demnianiuk and cut the deficit to one. Later, Labrador doubled to score Dominique to tie the game at four. The Rattlers struck back in the bottom of the fifth as junior Lauren Williams doubled to give the Rattlers a 6-4 lead at the end of the fifith inning. However, the Cardinals would not go down easily. In the sixth, Lee would ground out to second base to score Wynn and pull within one. In the seventh, Hogg did what she does best as she homered to score Dominique and give the Cardinals a 7-6 lead. The Cardinals held on to take the win.

Wilmes pitched the majority of the game, allowing six runs on five hits and striking out seven. Rothwell played the final two innings, striking out two and allowing only one hit.

In the finale of its time in Florida, Ball State took on a tall task in No. 21 Michigan (17-6, 0-0 Big Ten). The Cardinals have gone 7-7 against Big Ten opposition over the past five years.

The game was knotted at zero until the third inning when junior Natalie Peters singled to score freshman Natalia Rodriguez for a 1-0 Wolverines lead. In the fifth, the Wolverines added to their lead as junior Katie Alexander homered to give them a 2-0 lead. In the sixth, Hogg would once again come in clutch as she hit a two-run homer to score O’Donnell and tie the game at two. In the seventh, Miles would walk Sophomore Madison Uden to bring in the winning run. The Cardinals fell short of the upset, 2-3.

Miles pitched the entirety of the game, allowing three runs on nine hits and striking out five.

At the end of their spring break campaign, the Cardinals improved to 15-8 on the season and went 6-6 over the course of the week. Ball State will wrap up its preseason tournament run next weekend at the Belmont/TSU Tournament in Nashville. Ball State will face the mid-major likes of Tennessee State, Belmont, Rhode Island and Saint Bonaventure.

Contact Jack Williams with comments at jgwilliams@bsu.edu or on Twitter at @JackWilliamsBSU.