Story Courtesy of Ball State Media Relations
MUNCIE, Ind. - The Ball State softball team will play No. 15 Tennessee in the Knoxville Regional Friday. The four-team, double-elimination tournament will take place Friday through Sunday. Other teams in the Knoxville regional include Virginia and Louisville.
"I'm surprised we ended up in Knoxville, but I think it will offer a unique challenge," says Ball State head coach Craig Nicholson. "There are four very good teams in the bracket and the tough thing in a regional like this, where we're playing a team who has hosted for six straight years, is we have to settle down early and get into playing our game as quickly as we can."
The 2010 Ball State team became the first in program history to earn Mid-American Conference titles in both the regular season and conference tournament Saturday when the Cardinals defeated co-MAC champion Kent State 5-1 in the championship game. This marks just the second time in Ball State history the Cardinals have qualified for the NCAA Regional and the last trip was in 1998.
Ball State is led on the mound by two-time All-MAC First Team selection Elizabeth Milian (Grand Blanc, Mich./Grand Blanc), whose near flawless performance in the MAC Tournament earned her the distinction of MAC Tournament Most Valuable Player. Pitching all 28 innings for the Cardinals, Milian maintained a 4-0 record on the mound, including two shutouts and one no-hitter, and allowed just four hits and two runs, while striking out 40 batters, for a tournament-leading 0.25 earned-run average. The senior is the winningest pitcher in Ball State history and has tallied 32 victories this season. She is also the school's career and single season leader in strikeouts with 299 this season. In addition, Milian has been named the MAC West Division Player of the Week a conference-high seven times in 2010.
On offense, Ball State is led by the MAC Player of the Year and a First Team All-MAC selection - Jessie Ware (Phoenix, Ariz./Hamilton). A senior transfer from Arizona State, Ware owns a team and conference-high .416 batting average and .736 slugging percentage. She also leads the team in runs (64), hits (82), triples (16), extra base hits (37), total bases (145) and multi-hit games (22). Nationally, Ware leads the nation in triples and triples per game, is ranked No. 11 in runs per game and No. 33 in slugging percentage. Setting four single season school records this year - triples, hits, runs and total bases - Ware is also a key player on defense and leads the team with five double plays at third base. She was recognized three times this season by the MAC for her outstanding performance and received the MAC West Division Player of the Week three times.
"I think we have a very good shot in this regional," says Ware. "We're all excited that we're not going too far from home and we finally have a chance to show our talent on a big stage."
Other leaders on the Cardinals roster include Lisa Rozanski (Tampa, Fla./Alonso), Alicia Barkley (Oklahoma City, Okla./Putnam City) and Amanda Carpenter (Santee, Calif./Santana).
Rozanski, the Cardinals' centerfielder, is a two-time First Team All-MAC selection and was also named to the 2010 MAC Tournament Team. In Saturday's championship game, Rozanski led the team with a perfect 4-for-4 performance and led the tournament with a .667 batting average, seven runs and three stolen bases. In the overall stats, she leads the team and conference and is ranked No. 20 in the country with 36 stolen bases. With 113 stolen bases in three years, she owns the Ball State career record, as well as, career records in walks and runs with 82 and 128, respectively. The redshirt junior is ranked second on the team batting at a .350 clip and has tallied 64 hits and 46 runs scored. She also owns the single season record at Ball State for stolen bases, which she set in 2008 after notching 43 steals.
The 2009 MAC Player of the Year and First Team All-MAC selection, Barkley is second on the team with three triples against MAC opponents and batted at a .329 clip in conference play. Named to the 2010 MAC All-Tournament Team and a Second Team All-MAC selection, the junior has started at shortstop in all 57 games and owns a .951 fielding percentage. Overall, Barkley has recorded four doubles and five triples.
Carpenter is ranked second on the team with seven home runs this season and owns a .321 batting average in her rookie season. In the MAC Tournament, Carpenter held the top spot in RBI (10), triples (2) and total bases (15) and was named to the MAC All-Tournament Team. Additionally, she maintained a .500 batting average in tournament play, has totaled 11 multi-hit games overall this season and was named to the MAC All-Freshman team.
As a team, the 2010 Cardinals have set 12 team records -- runs scored (338), hits (473), doubles (90), triples (35), RBI (293), batting average (.305), total bases (717), slugging percentage (.463), wins (43), strikeouts pitched (389) and fielding percentage (.975).