When Ball State freshman pitcher Angelina Russo threw her 98th pitch, the only sound was the crack of Western Michigan (16-27, 6-11 MAC) senior pitcher Reily Galloway’s bat. When the ball was fielded cleanly for an out, that was the time for sound.
Russo was mobbed by her fellow teammates. Russo threw the first perfect game in Ball State history.
“I knew I was throwing a perfect game, but it isn’t one until it’s over,” Russo said.
Russo’s perfect game helped cap off a three-game sweep for Ball State (18-23, 11-6 MAC) over Western Michigan. After defeating the Broncos 4-3 April 19, the Cardinals won both of their games April 20 by a score of 5-0.
“It’s definitely a lot of confidence for us,” Ball State head coach Lacy Schurr said. “We got some new faces in the rotation and in the lineup. These games just help them to feel really confident.”
On April 19, the Cardinals fell into a hole early, trailing 3-0 after three innings.
Ball State got on the board in the sixth after a ground ball by sophomore third baseman Emma Richards allowed junior second baseman Haley Wynn to score. Sophomore first baseman Samantha-Jo Mata cut the lead down to one with a home run to center field. After sophomore center fielder Hannah Dukeman hit a double, senior left fielder Faith Hensley faced a 3-2 count with two outs. Hensley then hit a game-winner, walk-off home run to right field to give Ball State the 4-3 win.
In the first game of April 20's doubleheader, senior shortstop Amaia Daniel started Ball State's scoring, hitting the third home run of the series in the third inning. Freshman designated player Emma Niece scored in the 4th inning off of a wild pitch.
Ball State finished with three more runs in the fifth to finish with a 5-0 win. Junior pitcher Deborah Jones picked up her 200th career strikeout in the win.
After three innings in the second game of the doubleheader, both Russo and Galloway had perfect game bids. Galloway’s chance at a perfect game ended as she hit Hensley and her shutout ended after Mata sent a three-run home run over the left field wall.
“You never know they’re going over until they’re over,” Mata said. “I was telling myself the whole time to keep my hands high. She [Galloway] was throwing that up a ball that I knew I could take out.”
A two-run home run by Wynn and a finished perfect game from Russo sealed the 5-0 victory. Russo faced 21 batters, striking ten of them out, along with ten groundouts and one flyout. Russo said she loved achieving her perfect game at First Merchants Sports Complex.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” Russo said. “Having the announcers and the fans, everyone supporting you, it’s a great feeling doing this in front of your home crowd. Getting that last out, it was super exciting, seeing all my teammates storm out and celebrating with me, it’s a great feeling.”
Given that Russo threw the first perfect game in Ball State softball history and Schurr is in her second year as head coach, this experience was unique to Schurr as it was to Russo.
“This is a special day for Ball State softball,” Schurr said. “Russo is an incredibly talented pitcher and she’s capable of this. It’s so special to have a perfect game, because it doesn’t happen every day. I’m really happy for her and the work she’s put in this spring.”
Ball State returns to action in Buffalo, New York to take on the Buffalo Bulls (15-19, 6-10 MAC) in a three-game series starting April 23 at 1 p.m.