Game one of a series can prove to be a challenge, and it’s one that the Cardinals are finding themselves a victim of.
After falling to Bowling Green (14-19, 2-6 MAC) in the first game of the weekend series today 4-1, Ball State Softball (26-12, 4-2 MAC) is now 1-2 in the first game of a MAC series this season.
The Cardinals also posted losses in the first game of a series or tournament five times in non-conference play. The team is 4-7 overall in opening games this year.
“Tomorrow we just need to do what we do best at the plate,” head coach Megan Ciolli-Bartlett said. “We have to get deep into at-bats, take tough walks and to come up with the big ball when we need it. I thought we were pressing a little bit and swinging at balls outside of the zone.”
But despite struggling in opening games, the Cardinals’ last win streak of seven games came on the heels of losing the opening game to Fordham in the Mercer Bears Classic in mid-March.
In today’s matchup against the Falcons, the Cardinals started quickly in the home-half of the first as junior Haley Dominique led off the inning with a walk. Dominique then swiped her second bag of the season to put a runner in scoring position for freshman Amaia Daniel. The number four hitter drove an RBI double to score Dominique, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
The Falcons wasted no time in the second inning as senior Kellie Natham was hit by a pitch from Cardinal freshman Sarah Venker. Sophomore Payton Hamm reached base on a throwing error after attempting a sacrifice bunt, allowing senior pinch-runner Kathleen Shier to score. Hamm scored on the following play on a passed ball. Senior Alex Sorgi drilled a two-run double down the left field line to bring in senior Kali Holcomb and junior Kendyl Wheeler to give the Falcons a 4-1 lead.
Freshman Kim Manuel attempted to provide a spark for the Cardinals in the bottom of the third by drawing a lead-off walk and stealing second; however, the offense stranded her in scoring position.
“My confidence comes from how I talk to myself,” Manuel said. “I’m confident that if she gives me a pitch, that I’m going to hit it. It makes me very selective and helps me to realize that its not up to the pitcher, it’s up to me.”
Venker picked up momentum in the top of the fourth with two consecutive strikeouts, but the Cardinals continued to struggle to make things happen on the offensive end against Falcon senior pitcher Meredith Miller, who allowed just one hit in the until the final inning.
“[Miller] threw a great game,” Ciolli-Bartlett said. “She kept the ball spinning up all day and she didn’t miss a lot of pitches over the middle.”
Junior Janae Hogg notched a pinch-hit double in the seventh to post the Cardinals’ second hit of the day against Miller, who struck out five Cardinals. But Hogg’s spark was cut short when Dominique flied out to right field to end the day.
Venker and Miller went toe-to-toe as both stars tossed complete games.