Ball State Softball’s season is officially over. But for Amaia Daniel, it’s more than the end of the season.
After playing 212 games and being one of the program’s highest statistical leaders, the fifth-year senior’s collegiate career has come to a close.
“I don't think it's really hit me yet,” Daniel said. “I'm honestly just grateful for the opportunity that I've just been blessed with to be here for five years. This is the second time I've gotten to experience the tournament and I don't know how many people here have been able to experience that. Experiencing it again, even though the result wasn't there, I'm just really grateful for another opportunity.”
After falling to No. 1 seed Miami (Ohio) in the first game, the Cardinals needed a win against Central Michigan (29-25, 18-11 MAC) to stay alive in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament. But after falling 4-1, they go down as the first team to be eliminated.
In the loss, the Cardinals (27-26, 17-12 MAC) struggled in multiple ways, first was starting pitcher sophomore Angelina Russo who struggled in the opening innings and allowed three runs.
“I think she was in one of those moments where [Russo’s] gotta learn to thrive under pressure,” head coach Lacy Schurr said. “And she's gonna be great. She did have a great season and sometimes you just don't have your best stuff. And our job on offense is to help support her and we did not get that support from our pitchers.”
When it came to offense, the Cardinals collected six hits. But even after having multiple baserunners throughout the game, they only were able to score one run. That one run by the Cardinals came from Daniel on an RBI double, which moved her to ninth in program history for hits with 201.
The defense continued to have some mistakes that mirrored yesterday's loss.
“We just gotta take the outs that are given to us and not try to make something out of thin air,” Schurr said. “So, back to the drawing board. We're gonna work super hard on defense this fall for sure.”
When the Cardinals look back at their season as a whole, there were multiple moments to be excited about. Most of the squad will return for next season and Schurr believes that this result will better them.
“[They need] to be hungry and to find themselves in pressure situations,” she said. “Understanding how to thrive under pressure no matter what anybody says. It's still a different type of pressure in the tournament, and you got to find ways to execute.”
With Daniel moving on, the team will need to find a new leader.
“Our goal as a staff and as a program is to continue to develop them, even as freshmen, to lead in some way shape or form,” Schurr said. “So they're primed and ready. There are definitely big shoes to fill. [Daniel’s] just been a staple for us in the lineup, and on defense. That's going to be the big void that we're going to need to fill.
When it comes to the Ball State unit, Daniel believes that this was the right team to end on.
“This team was so special,” she said. “I mean, we always had a saying, we were gonna go off a cliff with each other and even on the bad days, you could tell we were jumping off the cliff with each other. We were seriously ride or die with one another and there wasn't a better team to do it with this year.”