'I just know it wasn't us:' Ball State softball falls with three-game sweep to Kent State

<p>Senior right-handed pitcher Francys King pitches for the Cardinals against Ohio March 16 at First Merchants Bank Ballpark. The Cardinals won 7-5 against the Bobcats. Kate Tilbury, DN</p>

Senior right-handed pitcher Francys King pitches for the Cardinals against Ohio March 16 at First Merchants Bank Ballpark. The Cardinals won 7-5 against the Bobcats. Kate Tilbury, DN

After the conclusion of the three-game series between Ball State and Kent State, there were two different moods in the post-game huddles. In left field, the Cardinals were quiet and head coach Helen Peña told them the truth after being swept by their Mid-American Conference (MAC) opponent. 

“[I told them] I have to prepare them better because someone has to and it's my job and it's my responsibility to be the person to say, ‘hey, we all have to commit for one another,” she said. “ I want them to be able to refocus and focus on how we can get better. 

“I don't need any of them hanging their heads and blaming themselves or blaming each other. That's not healthy at this point.” 

In right field, the visitors were much more spirited, cheering after taking the series and winning their ninth straight game. 

“We didn't come on to play and we know that that was not our best stuff,” graduate student Haley Wynn said. “It's sickening to hear another team chant on your field and scream that they're gonna get ice cream and how they're undefeated in the MAC.” 


The first game of the series at the softball field at the First Merchants Ballpark Complex was pushed to up to noon as rain was in the forecast. Coming off of a 5-0 defeat to Ohio in their last contest, the red and white looked for some momentum.

However, the Cardinals did not find a rhythm – much like the rest of the series – and fell 5-0 to the visiting Flashes. 

“There was a little bit of second-guessing I would say,” Peña said. “...We just have to commit more to the plan and just execute better.”

For the first four innings, both starting pitchers – Ball State senior Francys King and Kent State sophomore Macy Irelan – dueled from the circle. But in the fourth inning, the Flashes took a 2-0 lead with two RBI singles. They followed that with another run in the fifth inning and a two-run RBI double in the seventh.

Once the Flashes – who finished the game with eight hits – found success at the plate, the Cardinals could not stop them or match them. 

“We just got to be able to make adjustments faster and make the other team beat us in different ways,” she said. “We can't get beat the same way every time.” 

Softball v Ohio 8.jpg

Graduate student utility Jazymyne Armendariz slides into second base during the fifth inning against Ohio March 16 at First Merchants Bank Ballpark. Armendariz has two runs scored in 2024 season. Kate Tilbury, DN


While Peña wanted the Cardinals to trust in the process, Saturday’s doubleheader saw more of the same issues. In the first game, the red and white fell to Kent State 6-3. It was apparent from the beginning the Flashes came to play. 

Ball State redshirt junior starting pitcher Emma Eubank was pulled in the first inning after just 12 pitches. During her appearance, she allowed three hits and one run to score. Senior Francys King was brought in to stop the bleeding, but the Flashes did not falter, scoring three more runs in the top of the first. 

On the flip side, Ball State struggled to find any momentum and only recorded three hits to Kent State’s 10. One thing that Ball State did well in the contest was draw walks, with eight in total. However, the red and white could not score them. 

“It's really just the coaching staff and us putting ourselves in pressure situations,” graduate student Jazmyne Armendariz said. “That's not something that you can pull out of thin air. You gotta practice pressure, and we've been there plenty of times but we just couldn't execute today.”

After the Flashes used multiple RBI hits – which included an RBI triple in the top of the fourth inning – to take a 6-0 lead, Ball State found themselves down to their final three outs. In the bottom of the seventh, Hayley Urban broke the two-game scoreless streak with an RBI double, and graduate student Haley Wynn knocked in another run with an RBI single. However, the Flashes ended the game and took the series with a flyout. 

In the final match of the weekend, the Cardinals attempted to avoid a sweep. However, the attempt fell short as Ball State fell 6-2 for its first sweep of the season. 

“It's gutting,” Armendariz said. “At the end of the day, we gotta take it as motivation to really grind it out this week and keep going.”

Unlike the previous two contests, the Cardinals found the scoreboard first as Urban drew a bases-loaded walk in the top of the first. But that would be the only run for Ball State until redshirt sophomore Ashlee Lovett scored Wynn with an RBI double in the bottom of the fifth. 

Once again, getting on base was not a concern for Ball State as the red and white finished with six hits and three walks. But the Cardinals continued to struggle with scoring runners and stranded 14 baserunners in Saturday's games. 

Part of the issue was Ball State’s performance when running the bases. Multiple times, a runner was tagged when trying to take an extra base or just reading a play wrong. But another component was how well the Flashes did from the circle. Irelan threw a complete game and recorded 12 strikeouts. She finished the weekend with a total of 20 strikeouts. 

“She's just a competitor in just the way she carries herself,” Armendariz said. “... I just respect her a lot for what she did this weekend.”

The issues that Peña and the rest of the Ball State staff saw started in practice. It’s something that the Cardinals’ first-year head coach wants to change going forward. 

“I think I have to challenge them differently in practice so they can still focus on those things that we preach,” she said. “We talk to them all the time about failing in practice, and we want things to be hard in practice. 

“We want them to fail [in practice]. So now we've got to revamp how they're failing and how they respond to that.”

While the red and white’s level of play was a factor, there was something different about the Cardinals. A team that usually is excited in the dugout and on the field was quiet throughout the final two games. Even though she didn’t have an explanation for the shift in attitude, Wynn – who led Ball State with four hits in the series – felt it. 

“I just know that it wasn't us,” she said. 

Ball State will look to find the win column when Butler visits Muncie Tuesday, March 26. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.  

Contact Zach Carter with comments at zachary.carter@bsu.edu or on X @ZachCarter85.


More from The Daily

This Week's Digital Issue

Loading Recent Classifieds...