Team performance trumps individual accolades for Speers


Teammates greet sophomore Holly Speer (#10) in celebration after her three-run home run ended the second game of the double-header with Central Michigan University in the 6th inning at the Diamond at Dix Stadium on Saturday, March 26, 2016. The Flashes won 9-0.

Nick Buzzelli

With two outs in the top of the seventh inning against Central Florida University on March 22, sophomore Holly Speers stepped up to the plate at the UCF Softball Complex and drove a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall.

Speers didn’t think much of the home run. She hit one in the previous game against LIU Brooklyn, but grounded out to third, flied out to center twice and walked in-between those plate appearances. However, that home run against Central Florida signified the beginning of a streak, one that culminated in a walk-off homer four days later.

Over the course of the next three games — all against Mid-American Conference foe Central Michigan University — every time Speers had an official at bat, she touched all the bases, setting the NCAA record for most consecutive home runs with five.

“It’s definitely a surreal feeling. I wasn’t expecting it to happen. I didn’t even know that there was a record to break,” Speers, an infielder for Kent State, said. “It’s just great how the team’s behind me. That’s what really helped me accomplish it.”

In her first at-bat Friday against the Chippewas, Speers drew a walk from pitcher Rachel Knapp in the second and launched a dinger over the left-field wall the following inning.

The next time she stepped to the plate, the result was the same.

After glancing at a stat sheet during his team’s home opener against CMU, interim head coach Eric Oakley saw that Speers had homered in her last two at bats but didn’t think much of it.

Yet, when she continued to launch home run after home run the following day, Oakley thought “there might be something there.”

“It just seemed like that’s a pretty big feat,” Oakley said. “ … It seemed like that’s something worth looking at because it’s not something you see every day. And it turned out, obviously, that it was.”

Despite the fact that her coach was aware of the record-breaking performance occurring at the Diamond at Dix, the native of Surrey, British Columbia didn’t realize she passed former Canisius slugger Jill Iacono’s 14-year-old mark of four straight at bats with a home run until Oakley texted her the following morning.

“I honestly had no idea. I was just up to bat, seeing the ball well,” sophomore Speers said. “I don’t count at bats, I don’t think about the past at bat or the future, I’m just thinking about the pitch coming in.”

Even though she more than doubled her season home run total to nine in a four game span, Oakley isn’t stunned to see a sudden surge of power from his starting shortstop.

“She’s a great student of hitting. She learns every pitch, she gets better every pitch. She’s always going to battle,” said Oakley, who is in his first season at the helm of the Kent State program. “It doesn’t surprise me for her to have five hits in a row, by any means, but I think the fact that she had five home runs in a row just goes to show her power.”

Heading into Wednesday’s double-header at Robert Morris University, adding to her home run streak is the furthest thing from Speers’ mind.

“I don’t really think of it as a streak. I think of it as our team winning games and not looking at it as an individual, but looking at it as a team aspect of what we’re looking forward to do in the MAC,” she said. “I’m not focusing on the streak. If it happens, it’s great. If it doesn’t and I get a single, I’ll be content with that because I’m helping the team.”

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