Ball State finishes 3-2 in Marshall March Madness event

Graduate student Samantha-jo Mata is celebrated by teammates after hitting a home run Feb. 13 during a practice at the softball field at the First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Zach Carter, DN.
Graduate student Samantha-jo Mata is celebrated by teammates after hitting a home run Feb. 13 during a practice at the softball field at the First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Zach Carter, DN.

Ball State softball head coach Helen Peña said last week she had one mindset coming into the Cardinals’ final non-conference tournament of the season; to compete and stay with their process. With that motto, the Cardinals finished Marshall March Madness event 3-2.


With rain in the forecast, Ball State’s first game of the event was moved a day earlier. The schedule change did not harm the red and black as they defeated Marshall 13-9. 

Throughout the contest, Ball State’s offense found success as seven different Cardinals recorded a hit. In the top of the second, Ball State led 3-0. However, Redshirt junior McKayla Timmons continued the momentum as she launched a three-run home run.

Yet, The Herd was not going to let the Cardinals walk away with a win on their home turf. While Ball State earned another run with an RBI double from graduate student Haley Wynn, Marshall returned from being down 8-3 and took a one-run lead in the top of the sixth. 

Going into the top of the seventh, Ball State was down to their last three outs. Even with that in mind, the Cardinals managed to overcome that and take a 10-9 lead after a two-RBI single from sophomore Ashlee Lovett. 

Ball State’s offense did not stop there. With two baserunners, The Herd decided to pitch to Timmons. She reminded them that was a bad idea as she hit a 3-run homer, her second of the day. 

The Cardinals were able to take the win after sophomore reliever Bridie Murphy retired the side with a popout, a lineout, and a groundout. 


The Cardinals started the second day with two contests. In the first, the red and black looked for back-to-back wins as they faced in-state opponent Indiana State. While the Cardinals pulled out the victory, it was an up-and-down performance. 

The Sycamores took a 3-0 lead after the white and blue capitalized on a Ball State error and a two-RBI single. 

The Cardinals struck back when redshirt sophomore hit her fifth home run of the season with a three-run shot in the top of the third. After an RBI double from graduate student Samantha-Jo Mata, the red and black took a 4-3 lead. 

One inning later, Ball State’s offense added more support when Timmons hit a two-run home run, her third of the event. This gives her 13 on the season – passing the 12 she hit last season – and ties her with Miami (OH) senior Karli Spaid for the most home runs in the NCAA. 

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Redshirt junior utility McKayla Timmons runs the bases after hitting a home run during a practice scrimmage Jan. 26 at Scheumann Family Indoor Practice Facility. Timmons has a hitting average of .342 after two seasons with Ball State. Mya Cataline, DN

However, the 6-3 lead would come under fire when the Sycamores scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings with two solo shots. In the end, Ball State’s defense persevered and captured their second straight win.

The second game of the day was when Ball State took its first loss with a 5-2 defeat to Marshall. In the loss, The Herd’s offense was up to par as they recorded 10 hits to the Cardinals’ four. The red and black also only had one walk while Marshall finished with four. 


Looking for a rebound from their first loss of the event, Ball State came out swinging in their contest with Notre Dame. While the Cardinals played well throughout the game, arguably the biggest highlight was in the bottom of the fourth. 

When redshirt sophomore McKenna Mulholland walked to the plate, Ball State led 8-3. With the bases loaded, the utility player crushed the first grand slam of her collegiate career. The home run ended the game in a run rule, which was the first time Ball State had done so to the Irish in the program’s history. 

In the win, the Cardinals and the Irish succeeded on offense. While the red and black’s six hits showed up on the scoreboard, Notre Dame’s sevin knocks did not help them in the scoring department. 

Part of that was due to Ball State starting pitcher Francys King. While the senior gave up multiple hits, she rebounded with three strikeouts and allowed her defense to make plays. 


While Ball State’s first contest with the Irish ended in the red and black’s favor, it did not in the second game as Notre Dame run-ruled the Cardinals 11-3.

The Irish controlled the first four innings. Their offense could not be stopped and after multiple RBI hits, they led 9-0 in the bottom of the fourth. While they only out-hit Ball State six to five, the Cardinals had trouble scoring runs. 

In the top of the fifth, Wynn hit a two-run home run – her fifth homer of the season – and Lovett hit an RBI double. However, the Irish homered in the bottom of the inning, which ended the game. 

While the Cardinals still have two non-conference games left in the season (Butler and Purdue), their 13-13 non-Mid-American Conference (MAC) record to start the season is the program's best since 2019. 

Ball State will return to the field when they make their home debut with a series with MAC opponent Ohio. The first game will be played Friday, March 15, and will start at 3 p.m.

Contact Zach Carter with comments at or on X @ZachCarter85.


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