The Cardinals believed that they needed to open the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament with energy and needed to “leave everything on the field.”
For the first three innings, Ball State did that. In the top of the third, they scored four runs after multiple hits and walks. But after a three-run home run on a two-strike, two-out pitch, the No. 4 team in the tournament could not make up ground and fell in their first game to the No. 1 Miami Redhawks 8-4.
“We just got to take care of defense in pressure situations and on our pitching side, try to execute some better pitches,” Ball State head coach Lacy Schurr said.
On offense, the Cardinals (27-25, 17-12 MAC) shined as they finished the loss with eight hits. The most impressive part was who they did it against. Miami’s ace Brianna Pratt was one of the best pitchers in the MAC this season.
“We did a lot of preparation this past week,” senior Haley Wynn said. “All of our batters came in the box and stuck with it, which was really great to say whether they got the result [they wanted] or not.”
But while the bats were hot, the Cardinals left nine of their runners on base. Add some defensive mistakes to that, and the rest of the game is history.
“I think [it was] more mental errors, maybe a few throws that we shouldn't have,” sophomore Angelina Russo said. “We came out smashing and we did our job on offense. We scared [Miami]. We just didn't take care of the little things and it ended up making the difference.”
On the mound, Ball State had some bright and not-so-bright moments. Freshman Bridie Murphy and redshirt sophomore Emma Eubank together allowed six hits and eight runs. When Russo came in to finish the game, she gave up zero hits and struck out four Redhawks (36-18, 21-8 MAC). With her being one of the stronger pitchers this season for Ball State, she is ready to take on whatever comes tomorrow.
“I'm definitely going to come out and throw my best pitches,”she said. “I’ll do what I can do, let the rest happen and whatever happens happens."
With the loss, the Cardinals will return to Miami University to face No. 3 Central Michigan. When the Chippewas (28-25, 18-11 MAC) came to Muncie earlier in the year, Ball State swept them.
The [Cardinals] should be pretty confident,” Schurr said. “But It's definitely tough to beat a team four times in a year. [Central Michigan] is fighting for their season too. So it's gonna be a dogfight when we step on the field tomorrow.”
But looking at the Cardinal’s regular season, they have had their fair share of moments where their backs were against the wall. Schurr and the players have gone by the one pitch, one inning motto all year. Tomorrow’s game will be the time to see if they can use that to their advantage.
“It allows us not to get the picture too big,” Wynn said. “Again, the MAC Championship is the ultimate goal, but you need to do the little things and you need to take one thing at a time to get there.”