Three weeks ago, Ball State Softball sat in seventh place of the Mid-American Conference (MAC). On the field, they seemed lost and could not finish simple plays.
“It was just the type of softball that we were playing at that point in time,” the Cardinals head coach Lacy Schurr said. “... We weren't playing our kind of softball.”
But since then, Ball State (24-21, 14-9 MAC) has swept two MAC opponents in consecutive series. This weekend, they did it on the road against Bowling Green. Schurr believes it was the little things that have hoisted the Cardinals’ success.
[We worked on] more situational hitting, moving runners, and executing in the box,” she said. “From a pitching standpoint, just executing pitch to pitch and not letting at-bats get away from us.”
Multiple things happened before the series against the Falcons (8-33, 1-20 MAC) began. First, game one was supposed to start on Friday. But due to poor weather, the series started with a doubleheader on Saturday.
Secondly, fifth-year Amaia Daniel was out due to an injury. Being one of the leaders and a force on offense, other Cardinals had to step up.
“We were all devastated,” redshirt-freshman Mckenna Mulholland said. “But, everyone on the team was able to step up and know that we had a job to get done. She's still our biggest cheerleader on the bench… She knows that we have her back no matter what.”
Ball State opened the weekend with a run rule. After the bottom of the fifth, they had defeated the Falcons 8-0. Their offense was on fire as they finished with 11 hits, compared to Bowling Green’s two.
Senior Haley Wynn led the charge with three hits and two RBI’s. After struggling at the plate in previous series, she believes her mindset has helped her find recent success.
“You take everything and you just roll with it,” Wynn said. “At the moment, my biggest goal has just been enjoying every moment knowing that these four years here don't last forever. And I'm reminded of that by my teammates every single day.”
In game two, the Ball State offense picked off where they left off. After a 13-hit game, the Cardinals secured the series victory with an 8-4 win.
The contest did not start out in favor of Ball State. Going into the top of the fourth inning, the Falcons led 3-0. But then sophomore Kaitlyn Gibson launched a two-run home run to cut into the deficit. After Mulholland reached on an infield single, the Cardinals tied the game when she was able to score. She would finish the game with three hits and two RBI’s that would help secure the win.
Earlier this season, Mulholland was in the top half of the lineup. But during the Cardinals mid-season slump, she was moved to the bottom. To her, this has not changed anything about her mindset.
“My coaches believe in me and my teammates believe in me,” she said.” That just gives me another opportunity to turn the lineup back over to Haley [Wynn] up at the top. And honestly, just keeping the same game plan, trust in the process, and being able to do the job wherever I'm at.”
On Sunday, the Cardinals completed the sweep with an 8-1 win. Once again, they finished the game with eleven hits. This gave them 35 hits on the weekend. Clearly, the Cardinals did not allow the absence of Daniel to bother them.
“They [the Cardinals] knew that they needed to step up and move into some different positions that they haven't been getting a lot of time [at],” Schurr said. “But this team was really resilient in terms of okay, this is a job that we need to do.”
Some highlights from the game were junior Samantha-Jo Mata’s second home run of the season and redshirt sophomore McKayla Timmons’ performance. She finished the contest going 3-for-4 and had two RBI’s.
With Sunday’s win, the Cardinals now sit in fourth of the MAC. If they can stay there for the remainder of the season, they will be invited to the MAC Tournament. But to do this, Wynn believes they need to continue this momentum and not get ahead of themselves.
“We all are right there for each other,” she said. “It's using how to pick up your teammate and then I think our biggest goal has been winning one inning at a time. Don't make the game bigger than it needs to be.”
Ball State will return home for their final home series of the year. They will face Miami (26-16, 13-6 MAC) with a single game on Tuesday, April 25, and a doubleheader on Wednesday, April 26. Tuesday’s game is set to start at 3 p.m.
Contact Zach Carter with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ZachCarter85.