The Cardinals returned home for a Mid-American Conference (MAC) series with Toledo. After three games, the Cardinals fell 2-1 in their first home-series defeat.
“We've just gotta get the ball rolling,” Cardinals head coach Lacy Schurr said. “This team is very, very capable and I think we just need a little bit of momentum going into the right time of the year.”
The Cardinals (17-19, 7-7 MAC) opened the series with a 5-1 defeat. It did not take long for the visiting Rockets to find success behind the plate as they scored two runs in the opening inning.
Following that, Ball State had success of its own. Fifth-year Amaia Daniel hit a single for the Cardinals first hit of the game. Then redshirt freshman McKenna Mulholland drilled a double that moved Daniel to third. A few batters later, she scored on a wild pitch.
Even with a total of six hits, the Cardinals never found home plate again. They also finished the game with three errors. With that combined, they went on to lose their fifth game in a row.
“I think we need to make better judgments in the box,” Schurr said. “They had a really good game plan against us and obviously it kept us off our game. And we never made an adjustment.”
After the loss, the Cardinals met in their usual post-game circle in left field. But this was different. After meeting for a lengthy chat, the coaches left the circle. The players stayed there for another few minutes.
“It was just sort of us identifying what our standards were,” Daniel said. “Just a little reminder… we knew that wasn't us that stepped on the field. We just wanted to remind each other of our standards.”
After the meeting, the Cardinals opened up game one with a different look. To start, their routine for introductions was different.
This time, the starters ran out of the dugout and high-fived the rest of the team.
“We wanted to be more connected as a team and we all wanted to go out as a team,” Daniel said. “So we switched it up and we’re really trying to be one team, one heartbeat.”
The home squad also looked different on the field. On offense, they were patient in the box and made smarter decisions with their bats. On defense, they looked prepared and did not allow Toledo (13-19, 6-8 MAC) to score in the first three innings.
But when the Rockets started to find their offensive stride in the top of the fourth, the Cardinals could not get their offense to respond as they fell 5-0.
Even with the series loss, the Cardinals had one more game to play. They would go on to have their best game of the series and get the 6-1 win.
On her birthday, Daniel lit up the scoreboard first as she smashed a solo home run over the left-field wall. This homer gave the Cardinals their first lead of the series
“It was awesome to just get some momentum going for my team,” she said. “I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity.”
A few batters later, junior Kaitlyn Mathews smacked a double that would score another run. Mathews also shined on defense in left field. She made a sliding catch and threw out a runner at home.
“I think this is just a really good way to get a scale and get us rolling for the next series,” Mathews said. “I feel like we're finally starting to find ourselves and find the identity we know that we have.”
After scoring another run in the fifth inning, senior Haley Wynn was up to bat with runners on base. She then smoked a three-run home run, which was her first and only hit of the series.
“[It was] huge,” she said. “Trust me. There's a lot of frustration and I think anybody on the team is feeling it. We're just like, gosh, what do we do next? We did everything like we kept talking about. We kept trusting the process and it paid off.”
Ball State is now in seventh place in the MAC and has lost back-to-back conference series. But to Wynn, the Cardinals are in okay shape.
“We're a really strong team and again, we can compete with anybody and we know that,” she said. “We are much better than we showed this weekend… I think it’s taking it pitch-by-pitch, inning by inning, and the game itself.”
The Cardinals will travel for a midweek series against Western Michigan(11-16, 5-3 MAC) The first game is on Tuesday, April 11. The first pitch is set for 3 p.m.