Ball State (4-5, 0-0 MAC) competed in the Bulldog Invitational in Starkville, Mississippi, over the weekend. With each game, head coach Lacy Wood has one message for her players: Keep growing.
“We're in a place right now where we're learning and growing,” Wood said. “We are taking in all of this information right now, and we're going to get better.”
To begin play, the Cardinals suffered a 4-3 loss to Western Kentucky Friday afternoon. Despite starting off with a 2-0 lead, Ball State was unable to pin down the Hilltoppers hitters in the third and fifth innings. In the seventh inning, a two-out walk for senior left fielder Haley Dominique cut the deficit to one but proved not to be enough.
Later in the day, Ball State lost 8-3 to Mississippi State. The No. 18 Bulldogs found themselves down 1-0 after a score from senior outfielder Kennedy Wynn. However, the Bulldogs would go on to score five straight runs and never turn back.
Wynn continued her strong outing in the seventh inning, where her first home run of the season gave the Cardinals their third score. Wood is optimistic about the future after their performance against a top program.
“I think there was definitely that feeling we can go toe to toe with anybody,” Wood said. “Mississippi State, a testament to them, they really have a huge following here. It was a fun environment to play in, under the lights, and being in front of those fans but it also sets us up for our goal, which is to win the MAC. It was a fantastic experience for us.”
Ball State picked up its first win Saturday, where the Cardinals secured a 10-3 victory over Alcorn State. Junior pitcher Tieghan Morio picked up her second win of the season, holding Alcorn to only six hits and three unearned runs. Junior Faith Hensley was responsible for two home runs and a career-high seven RBIs. Wood believes Hensley's career outing is just a glimpse of what she will bring to the team this season.
“I think she has all of the skills that you could ever want in an athlete in terms of power, speed, arm strength,” Wood said. “She brings a lot to the table, she has worked really hard on the mental game, and she's thriving right now. She's been such a spark plug for us in a lot of games, not just this past weekend, but the weekend prior.”
In a rematch against Western Kentucky, the Hilltoppers swept the weekend series over Ball State with a 8-1 win. Freshman infielder Kayla Lissa scored the lone run for the Cardinals.
Ball State finished off the weekend with a 8-3 win over Alcorn State — its second win in as many days against them. Lissa and freshman outfielder Hannah Dukeman each led Ball State with two runs scored. Graduate student pitcher Alyssa Rothwell captured the victory on the mound, her first of the season.
The Cardinals will return to the diamond Tuesday, March 9, at Jacksonville State (2-8, 1-1 OVC). The game will begin at 6 p.m. With such a quick turnaround, Wood encouraged her players to sit back and cherish this time.
“The message right now is to take a breather for a second, and enjoy our time together while we're on the road,” Wood said. “These times where you're spending a little bit longer on the road together, we can definitely build some team cohesion.”