Taylor Castleberry rounds second after Stacy Payton hits a ball to the outfield in the fifth inning during the Cardinals' game against Kent State April 7 at the Softball Field at First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Eric Pritchett, DN
Payton drives in 5 runs as Ball State Softball rolls Akron in MAC opener
In the first game of its weekend series against Akron (6-12-2, 0-1 MAC), Ball State Softball (23-10, 1-0 MAC) pull out the eight-run rule for a 14-6 victory over the Zips. Sophomore Stacy Payton highlighted the win, batting in five over the course of six innings.
With 25 hits and three homers on the season, Payton is a returning player who brings experience and talent to the Cardinal squad. With 26 RBI's, already surpassing her previous season total of 21, Payton has shown improvement and poise throughout the early part of Ball State's season.
“[Payton] is a special kid,” head coach Megan Bartlett said. “She has an extraordinary amount of talent. She does a great job leading for us, too. She really does lead by example.”
Payton credits her team’s success to their high energy.
“We really get going in the dugout,” Payton said. “We keep the energy high. We have a lot of weapons on this team, too. People who can hit the long ball and a lot of speed.”
Senior Kimberly Rodriguez drilled a two-run homer through left field in the first inning to give the Zips an early 2-0 lead. Moving into the bottom of the first, Payton tallied her third home run of the season at the bottom of the first to even things out heading into the second inning.
After the Zips’ second home run of the day during the third, which evened the score at three, the Cardinals relieved senior pitcher Aeshia Miles for freshman Sarah Venker. However, after a single from senior Jordan Crews with the bases loaded and Rodriguez scoring on a passed ball, the Zips pushed ahead at 5-3.
A big play from sophomore Hailey Demnianiuk came at the bottom of the third in the form of a sacrifice fly to send home freshman Trinity Eckerty. The Cardinals tallied four runs on three hits to round out the third with a lead, 7-5.
“We had nice offensive production,” Bartlett said. “Any time you can get that kind of run support in a conference game is a special thing.”
Crews managed to score for the Zips off of an error in the fourth, cutting the Cardinal lead to one. But Ball State showed out, posting four runs on three hits. Payton doubled in the bottom of the fifth to allow senior Olivia Huffman to score. Sophomore Kendall Fields followed up with a single to center field where both Payton and junior Haley Dominique were able to score.
After nabbing three more runs in the sixth inning, the Cardinals ended the day with a win 14-6 on the eight-run rule.
Payton ended the day with an RBI of five and one home run, the only one for the Cardinals on the day. Dominique and Eckerty both posted two hits. Akron’s Adrian Smith is tagged with the loss, the Cardinals’ Sarah Venker gets the win. She moves to 11-2 on the season.
“We are going to have to continue that level of offensive production,” Bartlett said. “Akron plays such a fast style of ball. I think Aeshia will have a good day on the mound tomorrow. But we’re going to have to continue to have good at bats.”