After a 12-game stretch last week, Ball State softball (16-9, 0-0 MAC) wasted no time getting back on the road as it headed south for the Belmont/Tennessee State Tournament in Nashville. This was the Cardinals' final tournament of the season before jumping into conference play.

The Cardinals started off the first day in the late afternoon, taking on co-host Belmont (16-4, 0-0 OVC). The Bruins came into the game having won seven of their last nine games.

The game remained scoreless until the third inning, when a pair of doubles and a single gave the Bruins an early 5-0 lead. The Cardinals didn't get on the board until the seventh inning as junior Annie Robinson was walked home to end the shutout bid. Sophomore Janae Hogg hit one over the fence for a grand slam to tie the game at five. In the ninth, senior Maddy Labrador hit a fly ball to score sophomore Haley Dominique and give the Cardinals a 6-5 lead. The Bruins, however, answered back with a triple and a single to take the game in extra innings, 7-6.

On the mound, junior Aeshia Miles played the majority of the game while sophomore Alyssa Rothwell closed. Miles allowed five runs on six hits and struck out three over the course of five innings. In the final three and a half innings, Rothwell allowed two runs on three hits and struck out one.

In the evening slot, Ball State faced Rhode Island (2-16, 0-0 Atlantic 10). The Rams had lost 13 straight games coming into the tournament, including losses to Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green.

Labrador opened the game with a statement as she homered to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead. The Rams answered in the fourth with a pair of doubles to tie the game at three. The Cardinals had a big fourth inning as they would score eight runs. Senior Cadie O’Donnell scored off of a fielder’s choice to give the Cardinals the lead, 4-3. Freshman Hailey Demnianiuk doubled to score two and give the Cardinals a 6-3 lead. The Cardinals recorded two more hits and capitalized on a fielding error to end the inning with a 10-3 lead.  Junior Madison Lee iced the game with a single to score Hogg for an 11-3 lead. The Cardinals ended the game in the sixth inning for an 11-3 win.

Senior Carolyn Wilmes pitched the entirety of the game, striking out seven over the course of five innings. Wilmes also allowed three runs on four hits.

Wrapping up their short stint in Nashville, the Cardinals opened day two play against host Tennessee State (3-23, 0-0 OVC). The Tigers came into the game having lost six of their last seven games.

The Cardinals opened the scoring early as Dominique scored on a fielding error to gain a 1-0 lead. Later in the first, Hogg hit a fly ball out to center to score Demnianiuk, and freshman Stacy Payton homered to end the inning with a 5-0 lead. Demnianiuk doubled in the second to score freshman Katie Janiga and extend the lead to six. In the third, Payton homered again to give the Cardinals a big 7-0 lead.

The Cardinals continued a common theme they have held this season of big fourth innings. Hogg led off with a double to score Dominique for an 8-0 lead. Hogg and Demnianiuk later scored off of a fielding error to extend the lead to 10. A ground out by Payton allowed one to score for a 11-0 lead. Junior Olivia Huffman closed out the inning with a bang as she hit a home run for a 13-0 lead, ending the fourth.

The bottom of the fourth saw the Tigers find their way on the board off of a three-run home run. In the final innings of the game, freshman Kendall Fields singled to score Demnianiuk for a 14-3 lead. Demnianiuk led the team with three runs in the game. In the bottom of the fifth, the Tigers homered to cut the lead to 10, but it was too late as the Cardinals took the game in six innings, 14-4.

On the mound, senior Carolyn Wilmes pitched the entirety of the game. Wilmes allowed four runs off of five hits over the course of five innings and struck out three.

In the late afternoon slot, Ball State closed out the weekend tournament against Saint Bonaventure (4-11, 1-1 Atlantic 10). The Cardinals were 1-1 against Atlantic 10 competition coming into the game.

From the beginning, it was all Cardinals. In the first, Payton and Lee singled to score Demnianiuk, Wynn and Labrador for an early 3-0 lead. In the second, the Cardinals came out swinging. Dominique singled to score Janiga for a 4-0 lead followed by a homer from Hogg to add two more to the score. Labrador homered as well to extend the Cardinals' lead to seven. Junior Annie Robinson hit a fly ball to score Wynn for an 8-0 lead. Dominique singled to score Lee and Payton to break double digits for the third straight game to finish the inning.

In the third inning, Labrador proved to have the hot bat as she homered and increased the lead to 12-0. In the fourth, Labrador doubled and scored O’Donnell for a 13-0 lead. Wynn and Payton also played the doubles game, giving the Cardinals a 15-0 lead at the end of the fifth. The Cardinals kept the Bonnies off the board for the entirety of the game, ending the game in the fifth inning, 15-0.

Miles and Rothwell were busy on the mound today as they did not allow the Bonnies to hit anything. Rothwell pitched the first two innings, striking out four, and Miles closed, striking out one and getting the win for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals closed out the Belmont/TSU invite with a record of 4-1, improving to 18-9 on the season. Over the course of this weekend, the Cardinals scored a whopping 46 runs and ended three games by mercy rule. Ball State will return to Indiana next week as the team travels to Indianapolis to take on Butler on Wednesday.

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