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Softball Heads to South Bend for NCAA Regional Play

CEsLRzLW0AAxkkkThe Ball State softball team learned it would be traveling to the South Bend Regional to open play in the 2015 NCAA Division I Softball Championships, the NCAA announced Sunday night on ESPNU.

The Cardinals (33-23), the Mid-American Conference Tournament Champions, will open the South Bend Regional with a game versus in-state rival and No. 16 seed Notre Dame (40-13). The other half of the bracket features Northwestern (28-21) out of the Big Ten and Kentucky (29-24) out of the Southeastern Conference.

The 64-team championship field was selected from 283 NCAA Division I institutions sponsoring the sport of softball. Of the 64 teams, 32 received automatic qualification as conference champions with the remaining best 32 teams selected on an at-large basis. Sixteen teams were seeded and each of the seeded teams will be placed at one of the regional sites.

The tournament opens with 16 four-team double-elimination regionals held at campus sites May 15-17. The 16 regional champions advance to the best-of-three Super Regionals, which will also be held at eight campus sites May 21-24. The eight Super Regional champions punch tickets to the 2015 NCAA Women’s College World Series, which will be held at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium – OGE Energy Field in Oklahoma City, May 28 to June 3.

Ball State will be making its third appearance in the NCAA Division I Softball Championships and first since the 2010 season. The Cardinals’ first NCAA Championship appearance came in 1998, when Ball State suffered losses to Michigan (12-1 in 5) and Illinois-Chicago (6-1) in Ann Arbor. Ball State traveled to the Knoxville Regional in 2010, falling to host Tennessee (5-0) and Louisville (5-1).

The Cardinals advanced to the NCAA Championship by winning last week’s MAC Tournament with a perfect 4-0 record in the event. Ball State senior outfielder Hanne Stuedemann was named the tournament’s MVP after hitting .462 (6-for-13) over Ball State’s four games, including a pair of home runs. In the championship game, Stuedemann went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBI, including a three-run home run in the fifth inning.

Junior pitcher Nicole Steinbach and junior second baseman Emily Dabkowski also earned spots on the MAC All-Tournament Team. Steinbach went a perfect 4-0 in the circle, allowing just seven earned runs over 21.2 innings of work. Dabkowski hit .333 (5-for-15) over Ball State’s four games, including two home runs, while driving in six runs and scoring five times.

Softball Opens Home Season with Doubleheader Sweep

Photo credit BSU Photo Services

Admittedly I’m not a softball expert,  but when you beat a team by a combined 27-6 over a doubleheader, that’s a pretty good home opener. The Cards beat IPFW 8-2 and then 19-4 to climb just one game under .500 at 12-13 for the season. IPFW drops to 0-20, but their mascot is the Mastadons so I feel like even when they lose, they kind of win. Not that the scoreboard, record, or final score would indicate that, but still.

Cards are back in action this weekend against Western Kentucky with a doubeheader on Saturday (1pm) and a single-game 1pm matinee on Sunday. Chirp chirp!

Softball Splits Saturday at Tiger Invitational

Other StuffMaybe some of you are celebrating your Valentine’s Day by watching 50 Shades of Grey or some other way to enjoy your significant other’s company. Maybe a good number of you are single. Maybe you’re longing for some sports. Maybe you need some BSU sports fix, and you need it right now. If so, you should perhaps see someone about that addiction. That may be serious.

However, get it fed all the same, because your Cardinal softballers split their Saturday in Alabama against Mercer and Winthrop in the invitational hosted by Auburn. Chirp chirp on the plains? Get it on. The Cards dropped the opening contests in Auburn on Friday to Georgia State and Auburn, the latter a 12-1 loss in 5 innings. Auburn is ranked 17th in the country, just so you’re aware. Saturday was a new day with Mercer and Winthrop on the horizon.

To the BSU release!

The Ball State softball team celebrated Valentine’s Day with a Saturday split at the Tiger Invitational hosted by No. 17 Auburn. The Cardinals opened the day with a 9-1 (5 inn.) win over Mercer, before falling to Winthrop by a score of 10-1 (5 inn.).

Ball State (4-4) concludes play in the three-day Tiger Invitational Sunday, with a scheduled 10:45 a.m. ET / 9:45 a.m. CT first pitch versus Eastern Illinois.

In the opening game of the day, the Cardinals faced a pair of familiar faces on the Mercer (5-3) bench in co-head coach Stephaine DeFeo and pitching coach Kim Mazzapica. DeFeo was an assistant coach at Ball State for six seasons (2007-12) and helped guide the Cardinals to three Mid-American Conference regular season championships.

Mazzapica was a four-year letterwinner (2009-12) and three-time conference champion for the Cardinals as a pitcher and finished her career ranked sixth in program history with 33 career pitching wins. Mazzapica was also a volunteer coach for Ball State in 2013, helping guide the Cardinals to another conference title.

Senior catcher Jessica Craft (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) led the Cardinals versus Mercer, collecting three hits, including a solo home run. She also posted a RBI single in the seventh. Reyna finished the game 2-for-3 with three RBI on a two-run homer and a RBI double.

In the second game, Winthrop (4-4) held Ball State to just two hits over the five-inning game, with sophomore center fielder Taylor Cooley (Chelsea, Mich./Chelsea) logging her first career hit in the loss.

GAME ONE RECAP: Ball State 9, Mercer 1 in Five Innings
Long ball was the name of the game versus Mercer, as the Cardinals scored their first six runs via the home run on the way to a 9-1 (5 inn.) victory.

Craft was the first to go yard, as her first home run of the season gave Ball State a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Junior second baseman Emily Dabkowski (Plainfield, Ind./South Putnam) followed with a three-run blast in the top of the third, extending the Cardinals advantage to 4-0. Sophomore third baseman Amanda Arnett (Monroe, Mich./Monroe) and sophomore center fielder India Steward (Matteson, Ill./Rich South/Western Kentucky) scored on the blast after reaching base via a triple and fielder’s choice, respectively.

Junior shortstop Selena Reyna (Houston, Texas/South Houston) extended Ball State’s lead to 6-0 in the top of the fourth with her first homer of the season. The two-run blast also drove in Craft who opened the inning with an infield single.

The Cardinals added three more runs in the top of the fifth, pushing its advantage to 9-0. With one out, Dabkowski and senior left fielder Hanne Stuedemann (Mattawan, Mich./Mattawan) drew back-to-back walks. After a double steal, Craft came through with a RBI single to drive in the first run of the inning. Cowger followed with sacrifice fly to left to give Ball State an 8-0 lead. Reyna then drove in Ball State’s final run of the game with a RBI double to center field.

Mercer scored its first and only run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, on a one-out RBI groundout to the pitcher.

Junior Nicole Steinbach (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean) picked up the win in the circle, limiting the Bears to five hits and one unearned run over 5.0 innings of work. She also struck out six batters in the contest, while yielding just one walk.

For the game, the Cardinals scored nine runs on seven hits with one error. Mercer tallied one run on five hits with no errors.

GAME TWO RECAP: Winthrop 10, Ball State 1 in 5 Inn.
After a strong offensive showing in the opener, the Cardinals’ bats fell silent in a 10-1 (5 inn.) loss to Winthrop (4-4) in Saturday’s finale.

With the Eagles clinging to a 1-0 lead after three innings, the visitors struck for five runs in the fourth and four runs in the fifth to pull ahead 10-0.

The Cardinals got their lone run of the game in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a RBI groundout from Cowger. Senior center fielder Loren Cihlar (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles North) scored on the play after reached base on an error to open the inning, advancing to second on a Dabkowski walk and moving to third on a Stuedemann groundout.

Overall, the Cardinals scored one run on two hits with one error in the contest. Winthrop posted 10 runs on nine hits with three errors.

We’ll have more tomorrow on softball’s adventures in Alabama along with baseball’s opening season tourney in NC on Sunday. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!

Ball State Softball Has a New Assistant Coach

One of these people is BSU's new assistant softball coach. I'm hoping it's the guy on the right.

One of these people is BSU’s new assistant softball coach. I’m hoping it’s the guy on the right.

One thing you’ll notice (if you haven’t already) is that OTP is doing it’s darndest to make sure that all of the BSU athletic endeavors receive adequate coverage around these parts. Football will probably always be “our thing”, or at least until we change the name of the site, but that’s no reason not to keep you up on ALL of the goings on in the Cardinalsphere. It’s the least we could do.

Today’s BIG NEWS is that Ball State softball has hired a new assistant coach, one Alex Gray to come do his thing in Muncie from the metropolis of Storrs, CT and UConn. The BSU release…

Alex Gray, an assistant softball coach at Connecticut for the past two seasons, has been named an assistant coach for the Ball State softball program according to head coach Tyra Perry.

Gray served as the hitting coach at UConn, while also working with the infielders and outfielders under head coach Karen Mullens. He helped a pair of Huskies earn All-Big East Second Team accolades in 2013, while the team combined to post 40 home runs which stands as the second-best single-season total in program history.

“Alex is a great hire for us,” Perry said. “He is very well-rounded in that he has a baseball background, spent several years as a high school softball coach and has experience at the collegiate softball level. His passion for the game will bring great energy to the program.”

Prior to joining the staff at Connecticut, Gray spent three seasons (2009-11) as the head softball coach at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga. He led the Vikettes to a 67-34 record and was named the 2010 and 2011 Region 1-AAAAA Coach of the Year. His team’s won regional titles in 2010 and 2011, with the 2010 squad posting a 24-8 overall record, advancing to the round of eight in the state tournament and finishing the year ranked eighth in the state. Gray was also named the head coach for the South All-Star Team in the 2012 Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Softball Showcase.

“I am honored to be joining the Ball State Softball program,” Gray said. “I would like to thank head coach Tyra Perry and director of intercollegiate athletics Bill Scholl for the opportunity to be a part of the Ball State family and the supporting community of Muncie. I am ready to contribute towards the program’s success and Coach Perry’s vision for Ball State Softball.”

Gray served as the head softball coach at Richmond Hill High School in Richmond Hill, Ga in 2009, leading the Lady Wildcats to a 15-13 record and a berth in the state playoffs. He was the school’s head junior varsity softball coach during the 2007-08 season. Gray also served two seasons as the head golf coach and one year as the head junior varsity girl’s basketball coach at Richmond Hill.

In 2006, Gray was the community head coach of the freshman team, and the community assistant coach of both the varsity and junior varsity softball teams at Lowndes High School. He was the director of athletics at Bible Baptist School in Savannah, Ga. for the 2004-05 school year, as well as the head coach of the varsity boy’s basketball and baseball teams. Gray began his coaching career as an assistant coach for the Valdosta State University softball team in 2002, helping guide the program to a Gulf South Conference championship.

Gray was a four-year letterwinner in baseball, playing two seasons at both Young Harris College (1998-99) and Valdosta State University (2000-01). He was first-team all-conference selection at YHC in 1999, while earning the Baseball Spirit Award at VSU in 2001. Gray was a .342 (122-for-356) career hitter in his two seasons at Valdosta State, racking up 20 doubles, 12 home runs, 64 runs scored and 77 RBI for the Blazers.

Gray earned his associate degree in recreation from Young Harris in 1999 and his bachelor in speech communications from Valdosta State in 2002.

Admittedly, I am in no way a softball expert, but pulling an assistant coach from a school like UConn is a big deal in my book. I also am in no way a racy novel expert, but from heretofore, I shall refer to Coach Gray as “50 Shades” or “Coach 50 Shades”. Perhaps even “Coach 50” if I’m in a rush. I encourage you to do the same.

Wrigley Field Wants Humpday Ball State News and Notes

Wrigley FieldIf you are like me, most of your friends in the business or advertising industry who didn’t end up in Indy ended up in Chicago. For residents of the Windy City or fans the world over of the loveable losers from the Northside, today your Twitter timeline or Facebook newsfeed will be loaded full of celebratory messages for Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first baseball game played there today. I think it’s weird to celebrate a building’s “birthday”. A maternal building did not squat down and birth it. No, the Chicago leaders in the fast food of the time and a fish wholesaler brought it to fruition. Two dudes. Wrigley Field had two dads. How progressive! Surprised they didn’t locate the park in Boystown, but I digress.

As a fan of the Yankees and a former resident of the DC/Baltimore corridor, I’ve been quite fortunate to be able to enjoy some modern marvels of ballparks in my time. The new Nationals Stadium and new Yankee Stadium have set the benchmark for innovation, luxury, and amenities, a crown they took from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. But there’s just something about Wrigley Field. Granted, the park itself is a dump, there isn’t plush premium seating options, an outfield sky bar, craft beers throughout, or delicacies like sushi or crab pretzels, but Wrigley is baseball the way baseball was always meant to be.

If my grandfather came back today, he’d just shake his head and walk out of these fancy modern parks with their automation, innovation, and integration. He’d walk out and long for a better day when you wore a fedora to the park, got a good old-fashioned American hot dog made of pig lips and intestines, and had lukewarm American beer. Then he’d go looking for brains to eat because he’d be a zombie if he was out walking around. So there’s that. But happy “birthday” to Wrigley Field. On to the news and notes…

NewsNotesLogoFantastic piece from Ben Breiner at The Star Press about Coach Pete Lembo’s headware decision for Saturday’s Spring Game. Though CPL’s sartorial choices are usually not fodder for press clippings, the connection that he is attempting to foster between the Muncie community is hopefully a long-lasting and productive one. The University town-gown issue won’t be solved by a baseball cap, but any effort is a step in the right direction. (via)

NewsNotesLogoFootball alum Keith Wenning has been quietly building buzz and momentum going into next month’s NFL Draft. Keith is in Cleveland today, working out for the Browns, joining pretty much every top quarterback available for selection. I’ve said all along that I think Keith gets an opportunity on an NFL roster and when all is said and done may be one of BSU’s most long-lasting professionals. It’s all about fit, but no one can argue that Keith isn’t a talented and exceptionally skilled QB.

NewsNotesLogoOn the softball field, Jenny Gilbert continues to romp and stomp through the MAC, winning her fourth Player of the Week honor from the conference and 12th of her career. This season alone, Gilbert has accounted for the winning run in 12 of the 27 victories for the Cards. The softball team swept Ohio over Easter weekend, the same Ohio that leads the MAC. Ball State plays two games against Miami this weekend at home and the conference title is very much in reach. Saturday’s game is at 2pm, Sunday’s at 1pm.

NewsNotesLogoIf you’re a volleyball fan, tonight is a giant night for the men’s volleyball team as they travel to Lewis for MIVA semi-final action. The Cardinals are 22-7, ranked 13th, and have one of the best defenses in the country. The Flyers are 22-6, ranked 11th, and have one of the best offenses in the country. Lewis swept the Cards this season so far, but BSU has a three match win streak in conference tournament play. First serve is at 7pm CT, so be prepared.

NewsNotesLogoIf you are around the Bloomington area tonight I feel sorry for you, but there is hope as the baseball Cards travel to Indiana for a 6:00 tilt tonight. The Cards are 27-13 and I have been told they are remarkably fun to watch. Plus, you get to see the Cardinals beat the Hoosiers in something other than football, so that’s a plus.

NewsNotesLogoMen’s tennis begins the MAC tournament, which they are hosting, on April 25. The Cardinals are the three-seed and will face the second seeded Toledo Rockets. The Cards won the regular season MAC crown in 2013 and last won the tournament in 2011. I’d say they’re due.

NewsNotesLogoFrom the track and field circuit, Ball State’s Courtney Edon was named to the 2014 Indoor Track and Field Academic All-MAC team. She’s a nursing major with a 3.9 GPA which is a difficult task in and of itself. Doing that while running long distances is the definition of accomplishment.

NewsNotesLogoOn the golf course, the Cardinals took second in the Earl Yestingsmeier Memorial Invitational at Delaware Country Club. Toledo won the event, but the Cards put a dent in the lead in the final round, paced by Albert Jennings’ 73. It’s been a while since I’ve played Delaware Country Club, and an even longer time since I shot a 73. I think the exact date of my last one over par was… never.

NewsNotesLogoThe biggest video news of the week, other than OTP’s very own Look Inside the Spring Game, was Joel Godett releasing the below video. It has basically everyone of note in it in regard to athletics and BSU, including Coach Lembo, Bill Scholl, and even President Gora. Enjoy this cover of Macklemore’s Can’t Hold Us and enjoy your humpday.

Cards Halfway Done with Spring Practice Friday, Coaches Named for Spring Game

The scene at my house Sunday-Wednesday

The scene at my house Sunday-Wednesday

Remember that time that you were running a BSU football blog and for like four days you had a wicked bad stomach flu that made you miss work, miss blogging, and basically lay in bed and long for the sweet death that was hopefully right around the corner while subsisting only on ginger ale and Ritz crackers with the hope you’d see neither out of either end in short order? No? Guess that’s just been my week, then.

It’s been agony. It’s been terrible. I have new-found respect for stay at home parents of younger children who I have to believe spend a good majority of their time cleaning up vomit and taking care of other bodily messes that may arise. You people are heroes. As for me, I couldn’t even pull myself together enough to enjoy Price is Right, which is ultimately the only good thing about a sick day, whether you’re six or sixty. The good news? Vomitor the regurgitation God has finally had mercy on me and allowed me to get back to business around these parts. That’s good or bad depending on your evaluation of the Pylon. Here’s what we’ve missed, and therefore, you:

NewsNotesLogo The football Cards wrapped up practice 6 of the spring season yesterday and will get it cracking on practice 7 Friday. In true Indiana fashion there’s been some shifts and schedule adjustments to account for the Indiana weather, which of course opens up the Pandora’s box of an indoor training facility and the need for one. That issue will be raised around these parts in the coming weeks given who we have slated for an upcoming OTPcast, so get an opinion ready for that one.

NewsNotesLogo Speaking of spring practice, the spring game is a mere 16 days away, slated for April 19th at 2pm. That’s a Saturday so you really have no excuse not to be there. We’ll be watching for some very specific things from the spring game and sharing those with you as we get closer. The honorary coaches were announced today as Mike Lecklider and Art Yaroch. I’ll just assume CPL had misplaced my number.

NewsNotesLogo If you haven’t been over at the BSUSports mothership lately, you should give it a once-over. They’ve got some great videos about spring ball and more importantly, some videos to meet the new coaches that are joining the Cards for the 2014 season. There’s a video introducing you to Nick Siatras, the new defensive line coach for the Cards, and I’d advise you watch it. Assuming you can get it to load on your computer (which took me three Flash updates and a browser change. A First World Problem to be sure, but get it together, BSU). It’s funny, there are certain coaches who are just intimidating when you see them. Brady Hoke. Mike Gundy. Randy Edsall. Aaron Wellman. The kind that you are never quite sure what’s going to set them off, but if it does, look out. I wouldn’t qualify Pete Lembo as that. I would with Nick Siatras. Unless he’s not ok with it. Then I wouldn’t. Don’t kill me.

NewsNotesLogo Your 19-10 Baseball Cardinals are at home beginning Friday for a weekend series with EMU. If you’re looking for a good option for some family entertainment, that’s it, boys and girls. Games are free and it’s officially baseball season. Enjoy our national pastime!

NewsNotesLogo If you’re more of a softball fan, those Cardinals are in action this weekend as well. Friday is a home doubleheader against BG, and then this weekend is home games against Toledo. The Cards are 18-12 currently and have had two straight MAC doubleheaders rained out. If you can’t make it out, at least do a little non-rain dance.

NewsNotesLogo The men’s volleyball Cardinals are currently ranked 12th and looking to get back in the win column after dropping two contests to #11 Lewis and #1 Loyola. They take on Grand Canyon Friday and Saturday. I would think the Cardinals have a good shot as large holes in the ground I would assume are not all that good at jumping up and blocking or serving. What’s that? Grand Canyon is a college? Oh. I was hoping this was the first in a series of winnable matches against Big Ben, the Rock of Gibraltar, and Niagara Falls, who has a wicked dig specialist.

Go Cards!

Skeeball Lingerie Parties Want Friday Ball State News & Notes

SkeeBallGameEvery morning I have a digital routine that I do that usually involves checking texts, checking Twitter, and checking Facebook for the various stories and comments that I think might require additional examination on this site. This morning, I was surprised to see a growing outrage over an adults only party at a kids party place (think: Chuck E. Cheese) in Long Island, NY. To be clear, there were no children present, it was adults only, and from as far as I can tell it was more nightie’s and pj’s than Caligula-style horse orgies.

I’ll own the fact that I don’t have children, but I would like to think that if I did, it wouldn’t stop my ability to be somewhat rational about all this. I’m neither a scientist nor a child psychologist, but I’d hypothesize that just because a bouncy castle or a Dance Dance Revolution machine had someone in a nightgown play on it doesn’t make it or its users bound for eternal damnation because OH MY GOD SKIN!!!! And if the concern is your children being in a place where adult activities may have occurred, I might suggest to you to never let your children leave the house. Oh wait… they were born so they can’t stay there either.

Whether or not your delicate sensibilities were offended isn’t really the issue. You can choose whether or not to engage in naked skeeball, and even I would take a pass on that. It’s hard to look sexy when you’re rolling for four straight 50s with laser-like focus. But let’s pump the brakes on acting like this is the worst possible thing that could happen or that some law was broken. Poor taste? Perhaps. Though I would argue that’s a matter of internal measure. But to act like the mere presence of lewdness in an area where children may be TEN HOURS LATER somehow destroys their innocence is beyond stupidity.

Your kids are going to find nudity and adult themes in myriad places like the internet, television, movies, their friends, in their friends’ dad’s game room in the third cabinet from the left, etc. Perhaps all that energy you spend complaining about things like this would be better spent educating your children on how to live in a society where this is a thing (right or wrong) and pursue responsible decisions around it. Because acting like the whole nature of sexuality and/or adult type things is EVILEVILEVIL KILL IT is only going to make little Johnny or little Suzie that much more persistent to try it to see what all the fuss is about.

And for the record, if you’re one of those people who are outraged about the possibility of your child being in a location where people were perhaps thinking impure thoughts or engaging in activities that would make their parents blush and you live in southern Indiana, I’d go ahead and steer clear of the Dairy Queen in Floyds Knobs. Just, uh… go ahead and take Uncle Alan’s word on that one. On to your Cardinals news and notes…

  • The Cardinals football recruiting class that was signed, sealed, and delivered on Wednesday ranks anywhere between 3rd and 7th in the MAC depending on what service you look at. One thing to keep in mind is that the rankings are often impacted by the number of people in the class. It’s a cumulative point system that benefits those who sign massive classes. For BSU to land there with only 19 signees is a great sign about the quality of this class and the players within it.
  • And while the rankings are flawed, OTP did a little research and found that our preferred recruiting service (Scout.com) has kept rankings back since 2002. This 2014 class is the highest ranked Cardinal recruiting class ever. Even with only 19 signees. So be excited for that.
  • If you aren’t up on Ball State softball, you need to be. ESPNW certainly is, as they write a stellar profile on senior pitcher/outfielder Jenny Gilbert, calling her the best-kept secret in the college game. (via)
  • In not so great athletics news, the men’s and women’s basketball teams had a not so good week as the Lady Cards turned in two losses (@Kent and CMU) and the men one (@Buffalo). The men stand at 4-16 and the women at 9-12. It’s going to take a miracle for either squad to reach any form of postseason play at this point, but that’s no reason to stop supporting them. The men play at home on Saturday at 2 against Toledo and the ladies go on the road Sunday to Northern Illinois.
  • If you’re somewhere close to the nation’s capital, BSU men’s volleyball will be at George Mason this weekend to defend their newly minted #15 national ranking. If you’re near Princeton on Saturday, you can catch them also. Both matches start at 7.
  • No Ball State Tweet of the Week this week because most were either lauding a white trash party kegger or complaining about the snow. We have certain hurdles of classy here that we have to clear. (NOTE: We do not. This post started with lingerie skeeball parties)

The Olympic opening ceremonies are taking place as I write this, but because the suits at NBC are cramming a delayed broadcast down our throats, there is no way in America to watch them live. I, for one, welcome our new delayed television overlords. At any rate, stay warm this weekend, Cards fans. And make sure you disinfect your skeeballs. Hit the comments with your thoughts on whether you’re #TeamLingerie or #TeamPurity.