Over the weekend, the Cardinals started the 2024 season in the River City Leadoff in Jacksonville Florida. After playing in five games over the weekend, Ball State finished the weekend 1-4.
The Cardinals started their season as they matched up with James Madison (4-1). It did not take long for the Dukes to find success as they hit the scoreboard with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning.
Even though the Cardinals responded in the bottom of the first – graduate student Samantha-Jo Mata scored graduate student Haley Wynn with an RBI single – Ball State could not find home plate throughout the rest of the game.
After two RBI singles and two bases-loaded walks, James Madison defeated Ball State 6-1. This was when some issues in the circle began to arrive as sophomore Bridie Murphy gave up five hits, five runs, and four errors.
In the Cardinals’ second game, they faced Jacksonville (2-2). The Dolphins started the contest with momentum at the plate. After four innings, they led Ball State 4-0 after two RBI doubles, a fielder’s choice play, and a Ball State error.
However, The Cardinals scored two runs in the top of the sixth inning after graduate student Jazmyne Armendariz and redshirt sophomore McKenna Mulholland each scored.
In the top of the seventh inning, Ball State had three baserunners after Wynn, Armendariz, and Mulholland reached base safely. However, Wynn was thrown out at home and junior Kaitlyn Gibson grounded into a double play, giving the Cardinals their second loss of the day.
Ball State opened Saturday with a rematch against James Madison, and just like the first game between the two, the Dukes came out swinging. After multiple hits which included a two-run home run, James Madison led the Cardinals 7-0 after four innings.
Once again, Ball State’s pitching was shaky as senior Francys King gave up five hits, four runs, and three errors. While she had a decent weekend as a reliever, senior Alyssa Stramaglia struggled as she gave up four hits, four runs, and had two errors.
However, the Cardinals found some life in the sixth inning as Wynn – who had seven hits in the event and recorded a hit in every game – hit Ball State’s first home run of the season.
Yet James Madison struck right back with an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth inning, extending their lead and taking the 8-1 victory.
The second to last game of the weekend saw Ball State’s offense find momentum against North Florida as the Cardinals collected 10 hits, which was the highest total of the event.
After two innings, the Cardinals led 3-0 thanks to redshirt junior McKayla Timmons – who hit her first home run of the season with a two-run deep fly – and Wynn with her second solo shot on the day. Armendariz also drove in some runs with an RBI double in the sixth inning.
Yet, more struggles from the pitching staff and an offensive clinic from the Ospreys combined to give North Florida a 10-5 victory. Murphy allowed eight hits, five runs, and had four errors. Redshirt junior Emma Eubank replaced Murphy on the mound and gave up two hits, four runs, and an error. Then Stramaglia finished the game, giving up two hits, one run, and five walks.
The Cardinals came into their last game looking to avoid a weekend sweep.
During the first inning against Fordham (2-3), Ball State found success at the plate, as Wynn walked, Timmons doubled to left field, and Mulholland drew a walk. Next to bat was redshirt sophomore Jessica Hoffman, who was still looking for her first collegiate hit.
On the 1-2 pitch, the designated player launched a grand slam – making her one of two active Cardinals [Timmons] to hit one – to right center, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.
Following that, Fordham stayed in the game as they recorded eight hits, which helped them score baserunners. After three innings, Ball State trailed 6-5. Yet in the bottom of the sixth, that lead evaporated as the Cardinals’ offense turned the tables on the Rams.
After RBI singles from Wynn, Hoffman – who had five RBIs –, sophomore Ashlee Lovett, and a fielder’s choice play by Mulholland, Ball State scored five runs and took a 10-6 lead.
Even though the Rams scored with a two-run home run in the seventh, Ball State’s defense ended the game with a double play, giving Peña her first win with the Cardinals.
With four games under their belt, the Cardinals have a pretty good idea of where they need to improve before Mid-American Conference play starts on March 16.
Ball State will return to the field on Friday, Feb 16 as the Cardinals compete in the Chattanooga Challenge. Their first game is against Jacksonville State and will be played at 10 a.m.
Contact Zach Carter with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X @ZachCarter85.