BY LEXI EBLEN | Ball State Sports Link
Now just two weeks into its 2020 season, the Ball State softball team stands at 5-5 overall and looking to build off a pair of wins this weekend at the Hilltopper Classic in Bowling Green, Ky.
Ball State returns 15 of its 22 letterwinners from last season, including eight position starters, sophomore starting pitcher Tieghan Morio and closer Alyssa Rothwell.
The Cardinals finished the 2019 season with a 34-20 overall record, including a 9-8 mark in MAC play. Morio was a second team All-MAC selection last season, while Rothwell led the nation with 14 saves.
On offense, the team’s top eight hitters return to the lineup, including first team All-MAC honoree junior infielder Stacy Payton.
After having 10 athletes on the Academic All-MAC team last season and receiving seven first-place votes in this year’s MAC preseason poll, senior Haley Dominique says she has big expectations for the season.
After a six-year drought without a MAC Championship title, it is a common theme throughout the entire team they are in search of a title this year to break the dry spell.
The team added some depth to the pitching staff this year, recruiting three new freshmen. The team added: freshmen Shelby Westbrook, a left-handed pitcher out of Land O’lakes, Florida; right-handed pitcher Hannah Robinson from Piketon, Ohio and Deborah Jones, a right-handed pitcher from Unionville, Indiana.
With a five-woman pitching staff this season made up of three freshmen, it’ll be up to the lone senior on the staff, Alyssa Rothwell, to lead the young brigade this year.
Rothwell currently holds the Ball State and MAC career records with 28 saves. Last season, she led the nation with 14 saves and entered the season just five shy of breaking the NCAA record of 32 career saves, set by Kellie Wilkerson of Mississippi State (98-02).
This season, however, Rothwell has found herself in somewhat unfamiliar territory as she has started five of her six appearances. Over 20.1 innings of work, Rothwell owns a 2.41 ERA, has limited opponents to a .230 batting average and has stuck out a team-high 28 batters.
Prior to 2020 opening day, when she started both games versus UTSA and No. 8 Louisiana, Rothwell had made 68 consecutive appearances in relief for the Cardinals.
Heading into the final weekend of play in February, senior Kennedy Wynn said there is no problem about the early season start because it has always been a summer month for her.
With the season swing towards to Spring Break approaching, the upper classmen also went on to talk about how the team chemistry has vastly improved from last season. They feel the chemistry they have built within the team reflects play on the field in more ways than one.
The team returns to action Friday, when it opens play in the Hilltopper Classic hosted by Western Kentucky with games versus Green Bay (11 a.m. ET / 10 a.m. CT) and Indiana State (1:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. CT).
Saturday, the Cardinals battle the host Hilltoppers for a 1:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. CT first pitch. The remainder of the weekend schedule will be based on results from the preceding games.