Zirkle busts slump with big week

BGSU right fielder Ashley Zirkle hit .467 last week, going 7-for-15 with a handful of extra base hits and five RBI en route to her first career Mid-American Conference East Division Player of the Week honor, and thus, our pick for Athlete of the Week.

Zirkle tortured opposing pitchers during her big week, batting .583 in four MAC contests at Ball State and Miami, lifting the Falcons to wins in three of the four.

“I feel very lucky to get this honor, especially in the MAC,” Zirkle said. “I feel as though we’re as good as the Big Ten, so I feel very fortunate to be player of the week in this conference.”

The junior slugger began the week on an 0-for-12 skid at the plate – hitless in her last five games – and was once again blanked in three at-bats against Michigan State on Tuesday. Following a game’s rest, Zirkle viscously snapped the streak, going a perfect 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles, three RBI, and three runs scored, including a two-run blast to left-center in the seventh inning against Ball State on Friday.

Zirkle remained red-hot the next day in Oxford, going two for three with gappers to both right and left-center, driving in a run and scoring once. On Sunday, she drove in another run and went 1-for-5 in the Falcons’ 10-0 rout of the RedHawks.

Zirkle’s hits have been big and have come at crucial times for the Falcons, in an order in the lineup that has needed the muscle she has provided the past week.

Five of her seven hits went for extra bases, and although three games seemed like batting practice, Zirkle came through with runners on base in key situations and provided some clean up.

“I’m just seeing the ball real well right now and everything is working for me,” Zirkle said.

Zirkle attributes much of her turnaround to when she switched bats prior to a March 31 meeting with Buffalo.

Zirkle hit her first of three home runs this season in that contest and blasted another one the following game on April Fool’s Day at Kent State, which ironically provided some misfortune for the emerging slugger.

Zirkle then began her 0-for-15 drought.

Nonetheless, BG coach Leigh Ross continued to pencil Zirkle in the lineup and get her the swings she needed to climb her way out of it.

“Everyone else has been looking for me to fill that spot in the lineup and drive in runs for us,” Zirkle said, “and I knew that I needed to be able to be that role on the team and hit in clutch situations.”

Zirkle, of late, has proven to do just that, with some power.

“I just want to focus on hitting the ball hard,” she said, “and I think the team is confident when I come to bat that I’ll come through big for us.”