Story Courtesy of Ball State Media Relations
AKRON, Ohio - The Ball State softball team defeated Kent State 5-1 in the final game of the Mid-American Conference Tournament to clinch the school's second-ever tournament championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Regional. The last time the Cardinals won the tournament was in 1998 under former head coach Terri Laux.
"The big thing for us all week was scoring early and we never sat on a lead all week long but always added on and found ways to extend our lead," says Ball State head coach Craig Nicholson. "Now we need to get a couple good days of practice in and stay sharp for the Regional."
Last season, the Cardinals were named the MAC Champions of the regular season, but were unable to win the tournament.
"This time coming in we knew without a doubt we were going to win," says junior shortstop Alicia Barkley (Oklahoma City, Okla./Putnam City).
Four Cardinals were elected to the 10-person MAC All-Tournament Team, including Barkley, Amanda Carpenter (Santee, Calif./Santana), Lisa Rozanski (Tampa, Fla./Alonso) and Elizabeth Milian (Grand Blanc, Mich./Grand Blanc). Milian was also named the MAC Tournament's most valuable player for her perfect 4-0 record on the mound and 0.25 ERA. The ace allowed just two runs in 28 innings pitched.
Rozanski tallied the first hit for the Cardinals on a triple down the leftfield line. She was followed by Barkley who singled to right center for the RBI. With Ball State leading 1-0, Carpenter, who has led the offense in tournament play, doubled to right center to drive in Barkley and increase the Cardinals lead to 2-0.
Neither team recorded hits in the next inning and Sadie Robertson (Fenton, Mo./Rockwood Summit) was the only batter to reach base after she was hit by Kylie Reynolds' pitch.
Kent State recorded its next hit in the fourth when Leah Archual singled over the reach of Ball State's shortstop Barkley. The Golden Flashes were unable to score on the hit, however, as Milian struck out Grimes - her fifth of nine strikeouts in the game. Grimes was followed by Cinadr who was beat out at first on a throw from third baseman Jessie Ware (Phoenix, Ariz./Hamilton).
The Cardinals were unable to get on base in the bottom of the inning and the Golden Flashes picked up momentum in the fifth when Blanton singled and was followed by Mary Holt who reached on an error by second baseman Meredith Nash (Peculiar, Mo./Raymore-Peculiar). Then, with two outs, Hein pinch hitting for Heather Duhon singled to left field to drive in Lauren Brocklehurst, pinch running for Blanton. The inning ended with Rozanski making a running catch on a fly ball hit by Archual to centerfield that ended the inning with only one run scored by Kent State.
Hannah Zimmerman (Indianapolis, Ind./Scecina Memorial) opened the Cardinals fifth inning by reaching on an error by Kent State's second baseman Duhon. Ware followed with a double and advanced Zimmerman into scoring position on third base. Rozanski continued the momentum and drove in Zimmerman on a single. Both Ware and Rozanski advanced with Barkley at bat, but the junior was thrown out at first base. With two of Ball State's fastest runners on second and third and two outs, Collins popped up to the shortstop and the inning ended with each team held to one run.
Milian held the Kent State offense in the top of the inning and then Ball State's Ware singled to drive in Jackie Durment (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South), pinch running for Amanda Montalto (Las Vegas, Nev./Palo Verde) who opened the half inning with a walk. Then, Rozanski notched her fourth hit of the game on a double to drive in Melissa Harber (Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead), pinch running for Kate Wilczynski (Tucson, Ariz./Canyon del Oro) who followed Montalto with a single.
Heading into the final inning, Ball State led 5-1.
Milian finished the second half of the seventh by striking out two batters to clinch the win. Ball State's ace for her entire career, Milian has set several career and single season records in her time with the Cardinals. This season she became the winningest pitcher in school history and is 32-5 in the circle.
"I just took it one pitch at a time today and in every pitch I threw during the tournament," says Milian. "That helped me stay in the game and in the moment."
The NCAA Regional is May 21-23 and the venue of play will be announced Sunday evening.