Flashes end season series against Ohio on high-note

Junior infielder Maddy Grimm races towards third base as the ball flies foul at the Diamond at Dix Stadium on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. Kent State defeated Ohio University, 5-4, in 2 extra innings.

Nick Buzzelli

Eric Oakley has accomplished a lot in his first season at the helm of the Kent State softball team. For starters, the interim head coach set a program record by winning his first seven games, knocking off the likes of Memphis, Michigan State and Florida Gulf Coast in the process.

And he broke another record Wednesday afternoon.

After the Flashes (24-13, 7-4) defeated Ohio University (24-14, 6-5), 5-4, at the Diamond at Dix in the final regular season meeting between the two teams, Oakley etched his name in the program’s record book for most victories by a first-year head coach, breaking Sue Lilley Nevar’s previous mark of 23, which was set in 1986.

Earning Oakley’s 24th win of the season didn’t come easy for Kent State. Ohio took an early three run advantage in the first due to a dropped pop-fly that would have ended the inning.

However, senior Shelbi Tilton answered in the bottom half of the inning with an RBI single to cut the deficit to two. Kent State then took a one run lead three innings later on sophomore Holly Speers’ bloop base hit to right with the bases loaded.

The Flashes had an opportunity to add to their lead that inning with the bases loaded, but the Bobcats brought in sophomore pitcher Danielle Stiene and the right-hander struck out Tilton and freshman Bailey Brownfield in consecutive at bats to end the inning.

The defense behind junior Janel Hayes helped Kent State maintain its lead when Ohio was threatening to score. In the top of the fifth, the Bobcats had two runners on base with two outs and a chance to knot the score at four, but senior centerfielder Arika Roush’s diving catch saved a run and ended the inning.

In the seventh, junior Ronnie Ladine entered the game for Kent State in relief with the bases loaded and walked the first batter she faced, enabling Ohio to tie the game. Since the Flashes were unable to get any offensive production in the final frame, the game went to extra innings.

That’s when senior Erika Warren took over.

The senior catcher threw out an Ohio base stealer to end the top of the ninth and then hit a walk-off single back up the middle in the bottom half of the inning to score Tilton and give Kent State the one run victory.

The Flashes will take on Miami (OH) for a three game series Friday and Saturday before returning home to host Pitt next Wednesday in a double-header.

“This is an important week for us,” Oakley said Tuesday in a Kent State Athletics video blog. “Right now we’re relying on all parts of our game pretty heavily to come together.”

Nick Buzzelli is a sports reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].