Softball heads into a showdown against Ball State for a lead in the MAC West standings
So far this season, the Central Michigan softball team has won all six of it’s three-game sets against Mid-American Conference opponents, putting them atop the MAC West Division.
Yet, this weekends competition could make or break their championship goals.
Ball State (29-21 overall, 13-5 MAC) is fighting with the Chippewas (30-13, 13-5) for the regular season MAC West title, both ahead of the rest of the division by three games.
“We need to focus on every pitch, and every play because they all matter,” junior utility player Sydney Heath said. “We have to work hard at practice everyday and get ourselves prepared for another big week ahead of us.”
While the Cardinals don’t play anyone until they head to Mount Pleasant for the weekend series, CMU will play an in-state opponent earlier this week.
It’ll be the Michigan State Spartans (25-18, 7-9 Big Ten) that will come to Margo Jonker stadium to compete against the Chippewas at 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.
The Spartans come in after beating Eastern Michigan on Tuesday 13-2 in five innings. MSU has now won three of their last four games.
Head coach Margo Jonker knows how big of a week this is, but wants to win every game they compete in this week.
“We have made it this far, and it’s exactly where we want to be,” Jonker said. “We have a huge weekend set coming up, but we need to take care of Michigan State first. We are fortunate enough to have all of these games at home this week, it will be important that we take advantage of that.”
Scouting the Spartans and Cardinals
Michigan State has seven players who are hitting above a .300 batting average this season, and that charge is led by junior outfielder Lea Foerster who is hitting .389 on the year. The Portage native is also leading the squad in home runs (10) runs scored (51) and walks (20).
Red-shirt junior pitcher Kristina Zalewski (3-6) is the earned run average leader for the Spartans, sitting at a 3.33 average with 56 strikeouts. Bridgette Rainey (12-7) has the most wins for MSU and has a 4.45 ERA with 111 strikeouts to lead the team.
The Spartans are just 5-11 in road games this season, with their last true road win coming against Georgia State on March 9.
As for the Cardinals, they come in after losing their final game of the weekend to Toledo, but won two of the three games in the series this past weekend.
Toledo has a respectable 7-7 record on the road this season, and that will not change until they take on CMU this week.
BSU is led by Rachel Houck and Kennedy Wynn who are both hitting .317 on the season while starting over 40 games. Houck leads the team in RBI (31), runs scored (47) and homers (11). Wynn meanwhile, has a pair of home runs and 26 RBI.
Carolyn Wilmes (13-10) does most of the starting pitching for the Cardinals, starting 22 of the 30 games she has taken the circle. She has posted a 2.99 ERA with 12 complete games and 123 K’s to lead the team in both categories.
What’s Trending for CMU
The Chippewas come off of another solid week, going 4-1 after a double-header sweep of Valparaiso (24-16, 11-7) this past Tuesday and then beating Northern Illinois (22-18, 10-8) two out of the three games they played against them.
Junior pitcher Hanna Warren (10-5) took home the MAC West pitcher of the week after going 2-0 in the 12 innings she pitched in, striking out six batters while only allowing six hits and one run.
Sophomore utility player Kayla Noch was nominated for a player of the week award in the MAC West after hitting .467 (7-for-15) this past week, with three runs knocked in and two sacrifice hits. She now has eight sacrifice hits in the season to lead the team.
The Chippewas honored their 1987 softball team that was one of Jonker’s best teams in the history of the program.
"It is special anytime alumni come back, especially when teams were highly successful and they obviously were highly successful," Jonker said. "I'm very excited that they'll be back. A lot of them will be here and it'll be great to see them, and I think it's great for our current players to see the tradition and realize it's about more than the current team, but it's about the program.”
Jonker is now in her 38th season as the head coach of CMU and is one of the winningest coaches in sports history at the University.
That ’87 team is still the only team to earn a berth in the Women’s College World Series, going 37-14 and 11-1 in the MAC.