Flashes start season strong at Battle at the Beach


Then a sophomore, infielder Holly Spears catches a ball tossed by former Kent State infielder Michele Duffy in a rundown with a Youngstown State player on April 25, 2017. [FILE]

Cameron Hoover

The Kent State softball team went 4-1 on the weekend at the Battle at the Beach in Conway, South Carolina, thanks to hot hitting and lights-out pitching from sophomore Madi Huck.

“I think it was teamwork,” Kent State coach Eric Oakley said. “They love playing with each other, and they’re having a lot of fun. We kind of really put it all together, and we’re enjoying each other’s company. They had a good attitude.”

Huck finished the weekend with 14 scoreless innings pitched, only giving up nine hits and striking out four. She registered back-to-back complete game shutouts, a 1-0 pitchers’ duel against hosts Coastal Carolina and a 10-0 drubbing of UCONN.

“Madi does a great job of getting balls in play; there weren’t a lot of batters getting a whole lot of the ball,” Oakley said. “They’d hit grounders, or they’d pop it up. She did a nice job managing and being patient. If she got behind in the count, she’d work her way back in it. If she got ahead in the count, she took advantage of it.”

The bats came alive for the Flashes during the last two days of the tournament, and the team scored 31 runs over its last three games. Seniors Holly Speers and Allie Luther each tallied a home run and five runs batted in over the weekend.

“I think they were pressing a bit their first day out on the dirt,” Oakley said. “That has a little bit of an impact — seeing different pitchers for the first time. But then the second day, they just settled in and trusted their swings. They were a little more patient about their pitch selection. They were being smart aggressive.”

Oakley said it’s hard to tell what the first weekend performance will mean going forward, but it was good for the team to get a few wins under its belt.

“It’s good to put ourselves in a position where we’re learning to win early,” Oakley said. “Winning can be a habit. I think it’s important from that perspective.”

Game 1: Robert Morris 3, Kent State 2

The Flashes’ season got off to a rough start when Robert Morris leadoff hitter Natalie Higgins took starter Emily Dobbin deep in the top of the first inning. Dobbin tied the game in the bottom of the second with a double down the left field line, but the Colonials added two RBI singles in the fifth inning to put the game out of reach.

Game 2: Kent State 1, Coastal Carolina 0

Madi Huck outlasted the Chanticleers’ Kaitlin Beasley-Polko to secure the Flashes’ first win of the season. Huck went the distance, striking out two and only giving up four hits in her seven innings of work. Kent State scored the only run of the game on a throwing error from Coastal Carolina’s Stavi Augur.

Game 3: Kent State 10, UCONN 0

Madi Huck picked up her second complete game shutout in as many games with a dominating performance over the Huskies. The sophomore pitcher gave up five hits and struck out two over her seven scoreless innings of work. The Flashes’ bats came alive late in the game, as a three-run homer from Allie Luther sparked a furious ending to the game, as Kent State scored nine runs in the last two innings.

Game 4: Kent State 10, Rider 9 (9 innings)

With Kent State losing, 7-3, and down to its final out, Hunter Brancifort smacked a grand slam to tie the game and send it to extra innings. Brenna Brownfield, who gave up four earned runs as the Flashes’ starting pitcher, came up clutch in the ninth inning, hitting a double to right centerfield to seal Kent State’s extra-inning victory over the Broncos. Huck got her third win of the weekend after pitching the extra innings, giving up one unearned run. Holly Speers went 4-for-5 with two RBIs, also scoring a run in the process.

Game 5: Kent State 11, Lafayette 3 (5 innings)

The Flashes leapt out to a big lead, posting six runs in a first inning that included a two-run shot from Breanna Westover. Holly Speers added her first dinger of the season in the third inning to extend the Kent State lead to nine and put the game out of reach. Emily Dobbin gave up three runs (two earned) in 4.1 innings for the Flashes.

Cameron Hoover is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].