Ball State softball takes MAC road-series over Buffalo

<p>The Cardinals celebrates a home run hit by one of their teammates in the fifth inning against Ohio March 16 at First Merchants Bank Ballpark. The Cardinals were at 3-5 in the fifth inning. Kate Tilbury, DN</p>

The Cardinals celebrates a home run hit by one of their teammates in the fifth inning against Ohio March 16 at First Merchants Bank Ballpark. The Cardinals were at 3-5 in the fifth inning. Kate Tilbury, DN

Coming into the three-game series against Buffalo, the Cardinals looked for their first Mid-American Conference (MAC) series win since defeating Ohio in the opener March 16-17. They also wanted to break a seven-game losing skid. 

After the series finale on Sunday, the Cardinals began their return to Muncie with the series victory. 

“We've always had that [competitive spirit] and I said that day one,” Ball State head coach Helen Peña said. “This team has a lot of fight.”

Saturday

The weekend started with a doubleheader on Saturday. It did not take long for Ball State’s offense to get something going as redshirt junior McKayla Timmons launched a solo home run – No. 16 on the year – to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. 

However, the Bulls’ offense found momentum and used clutch hitting to take the opener 7-6. It was the first time Buffalo had beaten Ball State since 2022. 

“[It’s] obviously a little disappointing,” Timmons said of the struggles. “In the back of your head, you have the [losing streak] going, but our coaches and the team have been really good at stressing next inning, next pitch and next at-bat.”

While the result gave Ball State its eighth-straight loss, the Cardinals showed signs of progress. The red and white hit 11 base knocks while the Bulls had eight hits. Timmons led the way with three hits and redshirt sophomore McKenna Mulholland followed with two. 

There were also some negatives regarding Ball State’s play. One was in the field as the Cardinals recorded three errors, which helped the Bulls score multiple runs. 

“I think the biggest struggle we can clean up on is, defensively, just not making plays harder than they need to be or overthinking the easy plays,” Timmons said.

After falling in the first game, the Cardinals looked to rebound in the final game of the doubleheader. The first seven innings of the contest featured back-and-forth action as neither the Cardinals nor Bulls wanted to give in. 

With each recording multiple RBI hits, scoring was not a problem as the game was tied 9-9 after seven. This sent the game into extra innings. The Cardinals used multiple hits to load the bases in the top of the eighth. With two outs, senior Kaitlyn Mathews walked to the plate. 

“My mindset was really just to keep things rolling and keep passing the bat,” Mathews said. “So that we could just keep rocking and be in a good place going into [the bottom half].”

She battled and drew a 3-2 count. On the next pitch, she blasted the ball to center field. The rocket cleared the wall for her first collegiate grand slam, which gave Ball State a 13-9 lead. 

Softball v Ohio 6.jpg

Sophomore outfield Ashlee Lovett sprints off of home base to first base for a walk against Ohio March 16 at First Merchants Bank Ballpark. Lovett singled to center field during the fourth inning. Kate Tilbury, DN

“I was just so excited to get to home plate and to be with my team because I just know they were so excited for me,” she said. “It was just such a great emotional time for all the coaches and all my teammates. I'm always going to remember it.”

Following the homer, the Cardinals’ defense finished the game for their first win since March 16. To Timmons, Mathews' big fly did something for the red and white’s attitude. 

“[Mathews] works the count to a full 3-2, and just the way she was battling that whole at-bat, the whole vibe was you could just tell something great was about to happen,” Timmons said. “I have never met a more deserving player.”

Sunday

Looking for its first series victory in over two weeks, Ball State started well and never looked back, defeating the Bulls 7-1.

The weekend finale opened with the Bulls scoring on a successful double-steal. Yet that would be the only run the blue and white would earn as the Cardinals’ defense found a groove. One of those players was Mulholland, who recorded a hit and made multiple plays on defense. 

Though the shortstop has struggled a bit this season, to her this weekend was a step in the right direction as she finished the series with six hits and made multiple plays – including a highlight-worthy snag – on defense. 

“It gives me confidence. Going into the rest of conference play, it gives our team some momentum moving forward,” Mulholland said. “It just gives us that much more confidence going into our next weekend.”

While the Bulls could not find any momentum at the plate, Ball State did. The Cardinals finished the game with 12 hits, with graduate student Haley Wynn leading the way with three. 

Ball State will return to the field when the Cardinals face Bowling Green in Muncie. The first game of the three-game series will be played Friday, April 12 at 3 p.m. 

To Mulholland, this weekend could be the what the Cardinals needed to catch fire.

"I definitely think we are forming some type of routine here with this," she said. "If anybody can do it, it's our team and we just gotta stick to the process we know."

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

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