SOFTBALL: Ball State splits weekend series with Miami to open MAC play

CardsGÇÖ offense sputters Saturday before battling back Sunday

With the wind howling out to center field this weekend at the BSU Softball Complex, Ball State University opened both its home and Mid-American Conference schedules with two games against Miami University and high expectations.

The Cardinals had to settle on a split with the reigning MAC Tournament champion RedHawks as Ball State's offense struggled in Saturday's 5-0 defeat. The Cardinals came back with a 4-3 victory Sunday.

Game one: Miami 5, Ball State 0
After 26 games away from home to start the season, Ball State opened its home schedule against Miami on Saturday with its ace, Elizabeth Milian, on the rubber and a howling wind favoring the Cardinals' offense.

But it was Miami pitcher Jessica Simpson and the RedHawks' bats that dictated how the game was played, as Miami shut out Ball State 5-0 to open the Cardinals' MAC season with a loss – just their second loss in 15 games.

"I almost feel like Saturday, for whatever reason, we did not play well," coach Craig Nicholson said. "I cannot put finger on what it was. I just wasn't real happy with the way we played."

Nicholson said Ball State's offense was uncharacteristically "passive" in the box against Simpson, who threw a complete game shutout, scattering six hits and striking out five.

"We let [Simpson] dictate a little bit of how our at-bats were going to go," Nicholson said. "Normally we don't do that."

Milian, meanwhile, entered the game with one of the top ERAs in the nation, but gave up a solo home run in the top of the second to Shannon Tillett before being touched up for a grand slam in the top of the seventh by Meghan Mawn.

"[Saturday], Milian threw a pretty good game," Nicholson said. "The grand slam they hit was a good pitch, and the kid did a nice job getting on top and riding the wind out of the yard."

First baseman Kate Wilczynski and second baseman Alyssa Freiling were the only Ball State players with multiple hits hits on the day, each going 2-for-3 with a double.

Game two: Ball State 4, Miami 3
Nicholson said Ball State responded to being shut out Saturday as well as he could've hoped, as the Cardinals won a 4-3 back-and-forth affair against the RedHawks on Sunday.

The pitching matchup was the same as the day before, with Simpson and Milian battling in a pitchers' duel for most of the contest. But senior third baseman Jessie Ware's line drive sent in the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh to give the Cardinals (21-7) their first home and MAC victories of the season.

"[Sunday] we did a little bit better job of us dictating a bit better how our at-bats were going to go," Nicholson said. "It was back and forth all day long, but we found a way."

Milian (15-2) went the distance for Ball State, giving up nine hits and three earned runs while striking out five.

Nicholson said Milian executed their scouting report on the Miami hitters much better in game two.

"We kind of changed our approach a little bit," he said. "We gave up some hits on Saturday and felt like we needed to make them go the other way and keep them in the ballpark."

Right fielder Alyssa Collins was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate for the Cardinals, and left fielder Amanda Carpenter hit a two-run home run for Ball State in the bottom of the second, her third homer of the season.


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