Ball State softball defeats Akron 2-1 in weekend series

Senior infielder Haley Wynn prepares to bat in a game against Miami on April 26 at the Softball Field at First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Wynn had three RBI's. Katelyn Howell, DN
Senior infielder Haley Wynn prepares to bat in a game against Miami on April 26 at the Softball Field at First Merchants Ballpark Complex. Wynn had three RBI's. Katelyn Howell, DN

Coming into Ball State softball’s final home series of the 2024 season, the Cardinals aimed to gain some ground on Akron who sat at the No. 6 spot in the Mid-American Conference. With the red and black at No. 7 in the conference, this was an important weekend. 

“It was a difference maker,” Ball State head coach Helen Peña said. “We were sitting around the same number as Akron and we needed it. But also just creating momentum going into our midweeks and our last few conference series.”

Knowing the importance of the weekend, after multiple hard-fought games it was the Cardinals coming out on top in the series 2-1.

“We needed that one to get past them and one above them going forward,” Peña said.


The doubleheader at the softball field at the First Merchants Ballpark Complex started in the visors’ favor as Akron took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.

In the bottom of the second, a solo home run by graduate student Haley Wynn evened the score while an RBI single – from redshirt sophomore Jessica Hoffman – gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. Yet, the Zips’ offense found momentum as Akron collected 11 hits and defeated the red and black 9-4. 

While senior Kaitlyn Mathews recorded an RBI single in the fourth and a solo shot in the seventh, the Zips’ damage was already done. 

“We were really just missing our spots and they were capitalizing on it,” Peña said. “There were a few defensive things we should’ve been able to shut down as well that we just didn’t.”

The second game of the day was a little different than the opener as Akron’s offense recorded only five hits. With the Zips’ slow offense and the Cardinals finding ways to score, the red and black split Saturday’s games with a 5-0 victory. 

In the first two innings, neither side could find home plate. However, redshirt junior McKayla Timmons ended the scoreless stretch with a two-run shot – No. 21 on the the year – to put Ball State up 2-0. 

In the bottom of the fourth, the Cardinals’ offense as Hayley Urban scored a run with a sacrifice fly, which was followed by another run when Mathews scored on an Akron throwing error. The offense did not stop there as Hoffman launched a solo home run – No. 8 of the season –  in the bottom of the fifth to end the scoring. 

On the mound, sophomore Bridie Murphy threw a complete game. She allowed five hits but kept the Zips in check with six strikeouts. 

“It’s about setting a good tone on the circle,” Peña said. “Bridie did a hell of a job mixing her pitches, but then also hitting spots and trusting her spin. When she does that she can beat anyone.”


There were a lot of emotions during Sunday's matchup between the two conference rivals as it was the final home game of the season for the Cardinals, each team looking to win the series, and in addition to it all it was Ball States’ Cancer Awareness Day as well. 

For sophomore McKenna Mulholland, the Cancer Awareness Day held a special place in her heart as she was playing to honor her stepfather. 

“I’ve been affected by it a lot,” Mulholland said. “I was playing for my stepdad today, and looking around seeing all my teammates support me, my mom throwing out the first pitch, it was all love and we all knew that we’re not just playing for a game, but for something much bigger.”

With the Cardinals looking to clinch the series, Ball State was able to hold on and take a 7-6 victory over the Zips to win the series.

To open the game, the Cardinals started off strong in the opening inning. Timmons was sitting on first after a walk, and graduate student Jazmyne Armendariz hit a sacrifice bunt to advance Timmons to second, and Mulholland followed that up with an RBI single to score the game's first run and take a 1-0 early lead.

Akrons’ Meagan Lee took the lead from the red and black in the third after knocking in two runs with a 2 RBI single.

Momentum was like a pendulum throughout much of the game, with Mulholland responding in the bottom of the third with two more RBIs to recapture the lead for the Cardinals 3-2.

“They beat me [Saturday],” Mulholland said. “I just knew what they were coming at me with today, and honestly it was really was just see a good pitch, hit a good pitch.”

Murphy took on much of the pitching responsibility from game two on Saturday, well into Sunday's game, but her series would end in the fourth inning with the Cardinals making a pitching change to senior Alyssa Stramaglia.

Once Stramaglia took the mound, the Zips found a rhythm offensively and retook the lead 4-3 thanks to some struggles from the senior in the circle.

Offensively for the Cardinals, the fifth inning would see Matthews hit her second homer of the series, and third on the year. Matthews hit a three-run bomb which gave the red and black some cushion with a 7-4 lead as the game was coming down the home stretch.

“They had a great riseball,” Matthews said. “I was trying to stay above it looking for something low, and I put a good swing on it and luckily it went over.”

The top of the seventh inning hit and Ball State was now three outs away from clinching the series over the Zips, however that cushion given by Matthews in the fifth had diminished.

The Cardinals maintained the 7-4 lead into the seventh, but the blue and gold were able to very successfully get runners on base and wound up loading the bases. Ball State decided to make a pitching change to close out the game, with senior Francys King taking the circle with two outs, to close the series.

With the bases loaded, two outs, the tying run on third, and a 2-2 count, King was able to come in clutch and punch out the final batter to shut the door on the Zips comeback hopes. 

“It’s about trusting that whoever is in the moment that they’re able to do their job,” Peña said. “It comes down to trust, and trusting the preparation. It was a scare but the fact that they were able to pass on the ball and keep us in the game, I think it was great teamwork by the pitchers.”

The Cardinals will be on the road in West Lafayette to take on Purdue (22-21) Wednesday, April 24. The first pitch is set for 5:30 p.m.

Contact Zach Carter with comments at or on X @ZachCarter85

Contact David Moore with comments at or on X @gingninj63


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