A new role for Grimm: Flashes’ slugger leads from front

Kent State infielder Maddy Grimm hits a home run in the first game of a douvle header against Toledo, April 18, 2014. The Flashes won 13-0 the first game and 1-0 the second game.

Taylor Rosen

The way Kent State freshman infielder Maddy Grimm has been hitting the ball this season has her coach, Karen Linder, excited for tournament play. Opposing teams scramble to avoid giving the slugger something to hit when she steps to the plate.

Grimm is the most feared hitter in the Flashes lineup. In the last seven games alone, the freshman has been given a free pass to first base 15 times.

That’s why it was so easy for Coach Karen Linder to place Grimm into the leadoff spot last weekend after seeing her team struggle and fall in the first game of the weekend against the Mid-American Conference-leading Central Michigan Chippewas.

“What made me make the decision was when we played Central Michigan and Akron, they kept walking her,” Linder said. “If a team is going to walk her, then that’s a free base runner. She’s going to provide everyone else behind her with more opportunities to score runs. It’s already proven to be productive for us.”

Grimm is currently ranked second in the MAC in slugging with a .802 average and third in both on base percentage and runs scored. She leads her team in all three categories.

The idea of placing the best hitter in the order in the leadoff spot is not something one sees often; the one-hole player is usually a speedy contact hitter. Grimm, on the other hand, is not a base-stealing threat and relies on her power at the plate.

That is why the move might have been questionable at first, but it has turned out to be the right one and has provided the Flashes with an offensive boost. In her first game in the leadoff spot, Grimm was intentionally walked four times. Three out of those four times, her teammates delivered by bringing her across home plate.

“It is frustrating to only see a few good pitches in a game because offense is one of my favorite parts of the game,” Grimm said. “If they’re willing to put me on base, then I’m going to make the most of it running. I’ve really been concentrating on being aggressive on the bases.”

The Flashes went on to defeat Central Michigan that day in the second game of the weekend, 6-5, and the team hasn’t looked back since.

“I think Coach Linder’s decision was a smart decision with the intentional walking that has been taking place,” Grimm said. “I hit leadoff in high school, so I am used to it, and I like it.”

With only five games remaining in the regular season, the 5-foot-8 freshman is currently batting .337 with 40 runs batted in and 12 home runs in just 101 at bats.

“What Maddy has to do is decide if a team is flat-out trying to walk her or trying to pitch around her,” Linder said. “If the team is just pitching around her, she has to be patient because they could give her an opportunity to hit a mistake pitch.”

In the five games, Grimm has batted in the leadoff spot, the Flashes are undefeated and have won five in a row. A statistic that really jumps out is that they’ve outscored their opponents 38-9 during the streak.

“I think these last couple weekends gave us a really good push to finish the rest of the season strong,” Grimm said. “I am pretty hopeful for a successful end of the season. I definitely think we can win the Mid-American Conference tournament and go on to regionals if we keep playing how we’ve been playing. We just have to stay sharp in all four phases of the game.”

Contact Taylor Rosen at [email protected].