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'Hawks head to Ball State for two games

By Jordan Rinard
On April 24, 2014

Losers of seven of its last nine contests, the Miami University softball team will try to right the ship as it heads to Muncie, Indiana this weekend for two games against the team with the second-best overall record in the Mid-American Conference, Ball State University. The RedHawks (18-23, 6-8 MAC) are 3-3 in conference games away from Oxford this season and are 2-4 against West Division opponents.

"This week we're going to focus on us," head coach Clarisa Crowell said. "We just need to feel good about ourselves and feel confident. We've been playing hard, but it's hard to stay confident when you're not winning. There's no reinventing the wheel at this point in the season: We have to work on the mental part and what we can control. We're a very good team, and we have to put everything together the next two weeks."

The RedHawks have been in a rut for much of April as have gone 5-8 so far with losses to the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, Northern Illinois University and the University of Akron, plus sweeps at the hands of Western Michigan University and Ohio University. The 'Hawks have won consecutive MAC games on only two occasions this season. They split against Ball State last season.

Despite the recent struggles in the win-loss column, Miami has had some strong individual and team performances this season. Junior outfielder Bree Lipscomb is currently fourth in the MAC in RBIs with 34 to go with her .311 batting average and .656 slugging percentage. Senior catcher Kayla Ledbetter has also been a force on offense this season with a team-high .398 on-base percentage and .485 slugging percentage.

The pitching staff as a whole has been solid this season with senior pitcher Paige Myer's ERA of 2.89 and sophomore pitcher Amber Logemann's 101 strikeouts. The defense has been fairly steady as well as it is fourth in the MAC in fielding percentage with .962. Lipscomb is the only everyday starter who has yet to commit a fielding error.

"We're relaxing this week; we can't do too much and we have to stay calm," Myers said. "Our pitching and our fielding has been solid, so if we can score some runs we should be fine. This weekend, we have to perform and feed off of each other."

The MAC West Division leaders Ball State University (27-16, 7-3 MAC) have won three straight games, with 10-0 (six innings) and 7-0 victories against the East-leading Bobcats. The team is tops in the conference with a .322 batting average, but is also second-to-last in the MAC with a team-ERA of 4.33.

Four of the top 11 batting averages in the MAC belong to the Cards, with sophomore outfielder Briana Evans owning the top spot with a .409 average. Senior outfielder Jennifer Gilbert, who was named MAC West Player of the Week this week, leads the league with 15 home runs and 45 RBIs. Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Schifferdecker has been effective on the mound for the Cardinals with three complete game shutouts.

"Ball State's a great team," Crowell said. "They pitch well, hit well and field well. They've got power, speed, everything you could want in an offensive lineup but they're not invincible. Our girls come out motivated for big games like this and we're excited."

The RedHawks hit the road to take on Ball State 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

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