Ball State softball wins series against Central Michigan for 1st time since 2015
Errors by the Central Michigan defense and strong pitching by Ball State’s Alyssa Rothwell sealed two wins for Ball State softball Saturday on Senior Day.
To start game one, Central Michigan’s Lacy Tolfree started with a lead-off single. A hit by Sara Hansen resulted in an out at second, but Shaidan Knapp followed with a line drive to move Hansen to second. A wild pitch allowed for another advancement, and a walk for Erika Underwood loaded the bases. However, Morgan Gardner struck out to end the Chippewa scoring opportunity.
Olivia Huffman doubled to center field in the first, but back-to-back outs quickly eliminated the Cardinals' opportunity.
The top of the second inning was over quickly as Cardinals pitcher Carolyn Wilmes went three up, three down.
“Our pitchers did a great job this weekend,” head coach Megan Ciolli Bartlett said. “They kept them off balance and continually hit their spots in the zone.”
Kennedy Wynn and Danae King both walked in the bottom of the second. A bunt by senior Brittany Hopper and a throwing error allowed Wynn to score for Ball State (29-16, 11-6 MAC). Senior Maddy Labrador reached base on an error by the shortstop, allowing King to score and put Ball State up 2-0.
Central Michigan (19-20, 9-8 MAC) didn't score until the fourth. After loading the bases, Carolyn Wilmes left the circle, and Alyssa Rothwell entered for the Cardinals. Rothwell walked Hansen, moving the score to 2-1.
After a mix of pinch hitters and runners, a change in the batting lineup and three quick outs in the top of the seventh, Ball State won 2-1 to even the weekend series.
Rothwell allowed no hits and was tagged with the win, while Chippewa pitcher Hanna Warner allowed five and was given the loss.
“Alyssa’s rise ball is an elite level pitch. She does a great job spinning the ball, and even when it’s in the zone, it’s tough to square up,” Bartlett said.
Ball State started strong in the third game of the series when Dominique made an impressive diving catch in left field on a line drive from Tolfree. Hansen followed by reaching first on an error but was caught stealing to end the inning.
The only hit in the second inning was by Chippewa batter Maison Kalina, who doubled down the left field line. Gardner lined out to leave Kalina on base.
After Tolfree walked in the top of the third, Hansen singled through right field and was able to advance to second on a throw, pushing Tolfree to third. The scoring opportunity was cut short due to a ground out by Knapp.
The bottom of the third saw another Ball State run when Labrador homered to left center field.
“Our job is to produce runs, and we all do the best we can to contribute,” senior Maddy Labrador said. “Making sure we keep the energy up in the dugout and hyping each other up is a key element to our performance.”
Huffman followed with a deep drive to left but was caught by Hansen. Dominique grounded out to round out the inning.
Both Miles and Laura Vaccaro went three up, three down in the fourth, and the fifth saw only one hit, a double down the left field line by Noch of Central Michigan.
Knapp’s line drive to left center field in the sixth gave the Chippewas the edge they needed, and Vieira’s single gave Knapp the chance to score, moving the game to 2-1.
After Noch struck out in the top of the seventh, Tolfree put up a fight for Central Michigan, doubling to left center and advancing to third on a fielding error. However, her chance to bring the game to a tie was eliminated when Hansen lined out to first to end the game. Labrador finished two-for-three, including her 10th home run of the season.
“We have invested a lot in the culture of softball, from freshmen to seniors,” Labrador said. “We made a point to emphasize that this year. Contribution is different for each person, from having energy the team needs to taking players under your wing.”
Miles earned her Mid-American Conference-leading 15th win of the season, while Rothwell picked up her eighth save of the year. Vaccoro is pegged with the loss.
Contact Gabi Glass with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.