Softball is a game of execution. Often, in close games, one moment can alter the final result.
This was certainly the case Sunday when Ball State University was handed its second straight one-run loss by Kent State University, this time with a score of 6-5.
The crucial point Sunday came in the fifth inning when Ball State was nursing a 3-1 lead. Back-to-back singles by Lisa Rozanski and Alicia Barkley were followed by a double steal that put runners on second and third with nobody out. However, Kent State ace Kylie Reynolds induced two strikeouts and a popped-up bunt to end the threat.
"It came down to a lack of execution," coach Craig Nicholson said. "It's tough to beat a pitcher of that level when you don't take advantage of the opportunities you're given."
The Golden Flashes gained the momentum and rallied in the bottom of the inning. A hit-by-pitch and a walk put two runners on, and they advanced on a sacrifice bunt. Two consecutive RBI singles tied the game and put two runners on the bases. Both of these runners scored on a Jessica Carmichael home run, which gave Kent State a 6-3 lead it would never relinquish.
Nicholson thinks the top of the inning helped set the stage for the Kent State comeback.
"If we scored a couple of runs," Nicholson said, "maybe their game plan would have been different in the bottom of the inning."
Ball State rallied in the top of the seventh, starting with a single up the middle by Barkley. Amanda Carpenter followed with a double to right field. Alyssa Collins got the third straight hit to start the inning, chasing Barkley home and Carpenter to third.
After two quick outs, Meredith Nash singled to left field to bring the Cardinals within one run. The rally ultimately fell short as Reynolds struck out pinch hitter Kristy Stratton.
One positive for the Cardinals was the continued production of Barkley. After a slow start this season, the reigning MAC Player of the Year has been consistently hitting the ball with authority since the start of conference play.
"Her play has been big for our offense," Nicholson said. "And it is important for us that she continues to swing the bat well."
Ball State continues its season when it hosts Purdue University for a doubleheader Wednesday.