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‘Most fun I’ve had in four years’: Softball team off to a hardworking, exciting season

Matthew Brown
The Kent State softball team celebrates after a home-run.

Jessica O’Donnell, the softball team’s new coach, brings 12 years of coaching experience to the team. 

The season has just started, and after the first nine games, O’Donnell said she has noticed some great things happening on offense. 

“Offensively, we’ve out-hit every opponent that we’ve played, which is a huge accomplishment and a huge improvement from years past,” she said. 

The Flashes (7-6) have attended three tournaments so far this year. 

At the UNCW Tournament, two out of the six games were canceled. The team managed to win three out of the four games that were played. KSU outscored its opponents 22-7.

At the Elon Softball Classic, they won three out of their five games. The losses were decided by an average of two runs. 

At the Ole Miss Classic, the Flashes lost four of the five games and were outscored 31-15. 

O’Donnell, who joined the team after a stint at Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania, said she noticed some things that could be improved on the team as well. 

“Pitching wise we have a very young staff,” she said. “We have two freshman pitchers and a sophomore pitcher so for them to be put in this environment with a challenge has been great.”

Besides minor issues, O’Donnell said she is optimistic about the future of the team. 

“We have some minor things we need to tweak before we head to Ole Miss, but for the most part,” she said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised and happy and excited for the future.”

Stand-out individuals 

O’Donnell has mentioned a few individuals that have stood out to her so far this season.

Sophomore catcher Bri Despines

“She has just taken off offensively and defensively, a tremendous leader on the field, well behind the plays,” O’Donnell said. “She has a great relationship with the umpires. She plays like a veteran player.”

In the 2023 season, she played catcher and outfielder, also making the MAC All-Freshman Team. 

Despines also had a team high of 9 doubles within the 2023 season. 

Freshman Kenzie Bromley

“She’s a true utility player. She made an incredible catch this weekend out in left field where she slid and caught a ball,” O’Donnell said. “She made the NCAA softball page for one of the best pictures from last week.” 

Senior first baseman Emily Lippe 

“She is leading our team at home runs right now,” O’Donnell said. “A big hitter for us and a great person too.”

Lippe was Academic All-MAC in the 2022 and 2023 seasons. 

In the 2023 season, she recorded a team high of thirteen home runs. 

Sophomore outfielder Carley Penner 

In prior seasons, she played multiple positions. 

“She’s really stepped in and taken her role, doing an amazing job for us,” O’Donnell said. “She’s by far the hardest worker on the team. She’ll be in there hitting three times a day if you let her. I’ve been really impressed with her and how she carries herself; she brings consistency every day.” 

In the 2023 season, she batted .400 with four hits in 10 at-bats and scored three runs. 

Moving forward as a team 

“I’m trying to get them to understand the competitiveness of where we’re trying to take the program and what it takes to be a true division one athlete,” O’Donnell said. “I think they are going through that right now of understanding that you got to hydrate and take care of your bodies.” 

O’Donnell stressed the importance of hydration and rest. 

“You almost have to, or your body’s not going to make it, or you will decide that it isn’t for you,” she said. “So they’re in the midst of that right now.”

O’Donnell has her goals set high.

“The reason we train this hard is for the bigger picture, to win a championship,” she said. “We’re ranked 15th in the country for batting average. Can we continue to be ranked?” 

O’Donnell said she wants the team to experience big softball environments, and she would like the team to continue to experience huge, new fields in preparation for any postseason action.

“I want to put our team more in those environments to get the hand of what postseason looks like,” she said. “So that when that time comes, we’re not caught off guard and have never seen thousands and thousands of fans.” 

The new goals, competitiveness, and mindset of the team have brought a better team atmosphere. 

“One of the best quotes that came out of our team after the first week was when we finished the game,” O’Donnell said. “When the team said, ‘Man, that was really fun. That was the most fun I’ve had in four years.’ 

“That was really rewarding for me to hear.”

Robyn Taylor is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Matthew Brown, Photo Editor
Matthew is a junior photography major. He has a passion for photography and traveling. Contact him at [email protected].

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