Speers sets NCAA record in MAC opener


Senior Arika Roush hits a grounder toward third base against Central Michigan University on Saturday, March 26, 2016 at the Diamond at Dix. Kent State shut out Central Michigan in both games of their double-header, 4-0 and 9-0.

Nick Buzzelli

Entering the Kent State softball team’s game against Central Florida University, sophomore Holly Speers had already smacked four home runs in her team’s first 23 games of the 2016 season. Those totals more than doubled over the course of five straight at bats. 

Speers, an outfielder, hit five homeruns in five plate appearances over the course of Kent State’s previous four games, setting the NCAA softball record for consecutive homeruns as the Flashes (20-7) swept Central Michigan University (13-15) over the weekend to begin the Mid-American Conference play. 

“Sweeping a good ball club like Central Michigan is a great way to start the MAC season. But we will take it for what it is — three conference wins,” said Eric Oakley, interim head coach. “Offensively, (Speers) was unbelievable all weekend and (junior) Maddy (Grimm) really stepped up in the second game.”

Speers and freshman Bailey Brownfield were responsible for all of Kent State’s runs in the first game of the series, en route to a 7-3 victory. Meanwhile, junior Ronnie Ladines went seven innings on the mound, surrendering seven hits and three earned runs.

The following day, the heart of Kent State’s lineup – the three through five batters of Grimm, Speers and senior Shelbi Tilton – combined for nine hits and nine runs in both games of Saturday’s double-header. 

The Flashes jumped out to an early three-run lead in the first game and never looked back. Tilton drove in two runs on a base hit in the bottom of the first and Brownfield’s grounder back to Central Michigan pitcher Rachel Knapp two innings later drove in Speers. Defensively, junior Janel Hayes threw seven scoreless innings, propelling Kent State to a 4-0 win.

And the hit parade continued in the second game.

Senior Erika Warren got the Flashes on the board first, courtesy of a solo shot in the bottom of the second, and Grimm’s two-run shot to left field in the third and solo homer two innings later gave Kent State an early advantage.

Despite being intentionally walked in her first three plate appearances of the afternoon, Speers smashed a walk-off home run to left, icing a nine-run win in the sixth, thanks to the mercy rule. 

Kent State will face off against Robert Morris University on Wednesday before traveling to DeKalb, Illinois for a three-game series against conference foe Northern Illinois University next weekend.

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