Unbeaten in Mid-American Conference play.
Through two weeks, that holds true for Ball State Softball (14-8, 8-0 MAC), as the Cardinals earned their second consecutive series sweep over the weekend against Central Michigan (4-18, 2-10 MAC).
In Friday’s opener, Ball State took a 9-0 lead after two innings and never wavered en route to a 14-6 win. Senior catcher Stacy Payton connected on all four at-bats, finishing with three runs scored and three RBIs. Junior outfielder Faith Hensley led the team with four RBIs, her third straight performance notching two or more.
Junior pitcher Tieghan Morio held the Chippewas to seven hits over the first five innings before senior pitcher Alyssa Rothwell relieved Morio and held Central Michigan to one run in the last two innings. Twelve different players produced hits while eight had at least one RBI. Wood credits her team’s balance and depth for its strong performance.
“It's a pretty terrifying lineup for opponents when one through nine has the ability to hit it out,” Wood said. “Testament to them over the course of the week — they came out and it paid off, which is huge for us.”
The Cardinals won both games of Saturday’s doubleheader, 5-1 and 13-10.
In the 5-1 victory, sophomore pitcher Deborah Jones struck out eight batters while allowing just three runs. Senior outfielder Kennedy Wynn connected on her third home run of the season in the third inning, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the fifth inning, with the score tied at one apiece, senior infielder Janae Hogg converted on a 3-RBI home run with the bases loaded. She gave the Cardinals a 4-1 lead before junior infielder Amaia Daniel scored the game’s final run later in the fifth inning off of a Central Michigan error.
Ball State replicated Friday’s strong start in game two, jumping out to a 7-2 lead. However, the Chippewas produced an eight-run third inning and etched out a 10-7 lead.
“It goes back to being tested,” Wood said. “Early on in the season, I kept reaching out to this team, and we continued to weather the storm, focus on us and what we needed to accomplish. I think all of those tests, as painful as it can be when you're in the middle of them, help prepare you for moments like that.”
The Cardinals, though, paced themselves with a four-run fourth inning, regained the lead and held it in large part to the entrance of Rothwell in the fourth inning. Rothwell retired 13 of the 16 hitters she faced, and Wood said she was pleased with the stability she brought into the game.
“[Rothwell] was huge,” Wood said. “She really worked on her stuff during the week and went back to the drawing board to make some adjustments. I was really proud of her and what she showed.”
Ending the weekend, the Cardinals put in their highest-scoring effort of the season Sunday in a 16-5, five-inning win. It all started in the first inning, when Hogg hit her 40th career home run and began an eight-run rally. Sophomore infielder Haley Wynn, senior designated hitter Dealnie Johnson and Daniel paced the team with three runs scored apiece.
Ball State has not started out 8-0 in MAC action since 2013, when the Cardinals started conference 12-0.
“We're going to take each day as it comes to us,” Wood said. “We're not looking into the future about anything. If we can manage what's in front of us and the day-to- day challenges, it's going to set us up for where we want to be at the end of the road.”
The Cardinals return home Friday, April 9 against Kent State (11-14, 8-4 MAC) at 3 p.m.. Ball State is undefeated at home this season.