In Ball State’s first home series of the 2023 campaign, the Cardinals were able to bring out the brooms as they swept Central Michigan.
“There's something special about this team when we're playing at home,” head coach Lacy Schurr said. “You know, this is my third season [as Ball State head coach] and there's something about being at home. If we have strikes and outs left on the board, we're still in the game.”
After multiple delays due to rain, the Cardinals (14-12, 4-1 MAC) kicked off the series on Saturday afternoon. Central Michigan jumped out first with a 2-0 lead. But after that, it was all Ball State. Redshirt sophomore McKayla Timmons launched two two-run home runs in the 8-4 win.
“It's awesome,” Timmons said. “Being able to do it in front of the home crowd and doing it as a team is so much better.”
Another standout performance from the plate was senior Haley Wynn. She launched two solo shots which gave her five home runs so far this season.
“It was a really good vibe today,” said Wynn after Saturday’s win. “Like really, really good energy. You just wanted to do it for the person next to you and that was huge. It's like this is our house nobody comes in here and beats us up.”
On the defensive side, Ball State’s starting pitcher, sophomore Angelina Russo, threw a complete game with 137 pitches and eight strikeouts.
“Why show them anybody else at this point,” she said. “She was cruising and we got her a lead, and that always makes the decision a little bit different. But you know, she's our go-to and she is solid when the pressure’s on.”
Sunday Game One
Sunday’s doubleheader started with a defensive first game. Even though they had seven hits in the game, the Cardinals trailed the Chippewas (10-16, 0-3 MAC) 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning. The first two Ball State batters were retired and junior Kaitlyn Mathews was up to bat.
“I was honestly just focused on hitting something hard up the middle and just trying to chip away,” Mathews said.
On her third pitch, she hammered a two-out solo home run to tie the game. To start the eighth inning, Ball State kept Central Michigan from scoring. Following that, the Cardinals’ first two batters, junior Remington Ross and Wynn reached base safely.
Then it was the fifth-year Amaia Daniel’s turn. She has been one of the Cardinals’ most consistent hitters as she has reached base safely in Ball State’s last 12 games. Once again, she knocked a single that rolled past the defense, allowing Ross to score and giving the Cardinals the 2-1 victory.
When Ross scored, a mix of screams and cheers came from the Cardinal faithful.
“I've known our parents for five years,” Daniel said. “And for five years, they've been the exact same. I expected nothing less from them and it is just great energy every time.”
Sunday Game Two
In their final game of the series, the Cardinals wasted no time as junior Samantha-Jo Mata hit a three-run home run. Throughout the contest, multiple Cardinal singles and doubles allowed runners to score.
Going into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Cardinals led 8-2. The game is over if a team leads by eight points after the fifth inning. With a runner on, Timmons was up to bat. It was mentioned by someone in the press box a mere moment before her at-bat that all of her home runs this season so far had been two-run shots.
She must have heard that comment because she blasted a no-doubt two-run home run that had her teammates mob her at home plate.
“It's a great boost of confidence, especially against Central Michigan,” Timmons said. “Hats off to them because they had a great series. It's just a great feeling, especially at home and around the home crowd.”
To Schurr, this weekend's performance will help Ball State find more success in the future.
“It sets the table for us to ultimately reach the goals that we have for ourselves,” she said. “And, you know, I told them every game in this conference matters. I mean, right now, who knows what the conference is going to look like at the end of the season? And every game could be the difference of you hosting the tournament or not.”
The Cardinals are currently tied for first with Northern Illinois (13-12, 4-1 MAC) in the MAC. They will stay home and take on the Huskies in a midweek series that starts with a doubleheader on Tuesday. The first pitch is set for 1 p.m.
Contact Zach Carter with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ZachCarter85.