Ball State Softball Opens 2017 Season with Friday Split

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Solid pitching leads Cardinals to 5-2 win over DePaul in season opener. Team falls to Southern Miss, 8-1, in nightcap.

LAFAYETTE, La. – – Behind the right arms of freshman Darcie Huber (Greenfield, Ind./Greenfield Central) and sophomore Aeshia Miles (Lawrenceville, Ga./Collins Hill) the Ball State softball team opened the 2017 season with a 5-2 victory over DePaul Friday afternoon at Lamson Park on the first day of the 31st Annual Louisiana Classics.

In the afternoon’s second game, the Cardinals played Southern Miss tight through four innings, only to see the Golden Eagles pull away late for an 8-1 victory.

The Ball State softball team opens day two of the Louisiana Classics Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. CT versus tournament host and 11th-ranked Louisiana. The Cardinals end the day with a scheduled 8 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CT rematch versus Southern Miss.

GAME 1: Ball State 5 – DePaul 2

With 12 players donning a Ball State jersey for the first time, it was freshman right-hander Huber who provided an early spark for the Cardinals in the circle. After surrendering a single to open the game, Huber struck out two of the next three batters she faced to help hold DePaul scoreless in the top of the first.

That set up the Ball State offense to make some noise in the bottom half of the inning, and they sure did. In her first at bat with the Cardinals, junior second baseman Maddy Labrador (Lexington, S.C./Spartanburg Methodist) opened the bottom of the first with a single to center field. Senior center fielder Rachel Houck (Greenfield, Ind./Louisville) followed with her first of two hits in the game, a RBI double to center field, to give Ball State a 1-0 lead.

Two batters later, junior shortstop Brittany Hopper (Scottsdale, Ariz./Phoenix College) made her first Ball State at bat a memorable one with a single to right field, extending her current hitting streak to 23 games. An error on the play allowed Houck to cross the plate, making the score 2-0, and helped Hopper move into scoring position.

Sophomore right fielder Madison Lee (Cerritos, Calif./Cerritos) then picked up where she left off last season, as the 2016 NFCA All-Great Lakes Region selection opened the season with a RBI single to left-center, giving Ball State a 3-0 lead.

After Huber held the Blue Demons hitless over the second and third innings, including retiring the side in order in the top of the third, the Cardinals extended their lead to 5-0 with two runs in the bottom of the third.

Houck opened the inning with her second double of the game. Freshman designated player Janae Hogg (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) followed with her first career hit, a RBI double to make the score 4-0. Junior first baseman Danae King (Glendale, Ariz./Phoenix College) got into the action next with her first Ball State hit, depositing a RBI single into left field. With the hit, which made the score 5-0, King extended her current hitting streak to 36 games.

After a scoreless fourth inning, DePaul managed to put two runs on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth courtesy of a two-out, two-run home run from Nicole Pihl. Two batters later, however, Huber would get out of the inning with no further damage by inducing a foul fly to end the inning.

Miles, who played the first five innings in left field, moved to the circle in the top of the sixth and struck out two of the first three batters she faced in her collegiate pitching debut. After surrendering a walk, she induced a fielder’s choice to third ending the inning.

DePaul would manage to get a pair of runners in scoring position in the top of the seventh with no outs, only to have Miles throw three straight grounders to Hopper at shortstop to end the game.

Huber earned her first career victory in the circle for the Cardinals, allowing just five hits and a pair of earned runs over 5.0 innings of work. She also finished the game with a pair of strikeouts. Miles allowed just two hits over 2.0 innings of work, while striking out two, to earn her first career save.
GAME 2 – Southern Miss 8 – Ball State 1

The second game was a pitchers’ duel early, as both teams were retired in order in the first inning. Ball State junior pitcher Carolyn Wilmes (Evansville, Ind./Matre Dei) looked particularly strong, striking out the first two batters she faced.

Hopper logged the game’s first hit for the Cardinals in the top of the second, extending her current hitting streak to 24 games with a single to second base.

While Southern Miss was able to score a pair of runs in the bottom of the second, Wilmes continued to throw well and limited the Golden Eagles to just three hits and a pair of runs over 4.0 innings of work. She picked up the pitching loss despite striking out a career-high five batters.

Ball State’s lone run came in the top of the third when a two-out walk to Labrador came back to haunt Southern Miss. Houck followed by delivering her second RBI double of the day, cutting the Golden Eagles’ lead to 2-1. Houck finished opening day 3-for-5 with three doubles, two RBI and two runs scored.

King gave the Cardinals some two-out hope in the top of the fourth by singling to left field to extend her current hitting streak to 37 games. However, a strikeout ended the inning.

Ball State looked poised to take the lead in the top of the fifth, as freshman pinch hitter Kennedy Wynn (New Albany, Ind./New Albany) singled to center field with one out. Labrador followed with her second hit of the season, singling down the right field line, but Wynn was called out trying to advance to third for the second out of the inning.

After a walk to Houck gave Ball State a pair of base runners, Southern Miss was able to track down a deep fly ball by Hogg as the gusty wind helped keep what looked to be a go-ahead home run inside the park for the inning’s final out.

The Golden Eagles took control of the game from there, scoring four runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth for an 8-1 victory. Freshman pitcher Alyssa Rothwell (Ashville, Ohio/Teays Valley) made her collegiate debut in the bottom of the sixth, striking out two of the five batters she faced. Miles would also pick up her third career pitching strikeout after entering the game in relief of Wilmes in the fifth.

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