Softball splits weekend series with conference opponents

Christian Petrila

Kent State recovered after dropping the first two games of a four-game weekend homestand by winning the last two in comeback fashion.

After losing the first two games of the weekend against Northern Illinois, the Flashes recorded their 13th and 14th come-from-behind victories of the season on Saturday and Sunday against Western Michigan.

“I think the kids are very confident in each other and I think they’ve got a mentality that we’re going to fight back,” head coach Karen Linder said. “They’re very confident that they can come through and win even when they’re behind.”

The Flashes dug themselves into an early hole on Sunday afternoon against the Broncos, falling behind 2-0 in the first. That led to Linder pulling starting pitcher Lauren McNeil after facing just four batters in favor of Emma Johnson, who carried the team to an 8-2 win.

After Johnson limited the damage, the offense came alive in the bottom of the second to score seven runs, highlighted by a Dani Ramos two-run double to left field. Erika Warren, Michele Duffy, Lauren Kesterson, Lauren Grimes and Abbey Ledford also drove in runs for the Flashes.

Johnson earned her 16th win of the season, as she pitched 6 2/3 innings of relief in which she didn’t allow a run on five hits while striking out seven. It was her second time seeing home plate umpire Dan Maierle, who had her a bit frustrated a few days earlier with his inconsistent strike zone.

“On Friday when I had him, I was very frustrated,” Johnson said. “But today, I expected that he was going to come so I came with a positive mindset and said, ‘I’m not going to let him distract me.’”

The day before, Western Michigan’s Becca Shemberger hindered Kent State’s bats. However, a breakthrough in the bottom of the sixth was enough to carry the Flashes to a 2-1 win.

With neither team recording a hit entering the sixth, the Broncos got on the board when Mackenzie Shepeck homered to left off of Johnson. The Flashes battled back in the bottom half, as two walks and a single loaded the bases for Shelbi Tilton.

A wild pitch allowed Kim Kirkpatrick to score, who knocked the ball out of Shemberger’s glove on the slide. Grimes was right on her heels to score what proved to be the winning run.

The weekend began Friday afternoon with a doubleheader against Northern Illinois. With a bitter wind whipping and the occasional snowflake falling, the Huskies emerged victorious in both games by scores of 5-1 and 4-3.

Pitcher Emily Norton recorded all but two outs on the afternoon for the Huskies, who never trailed in either game.

The next order of business for the Flashes will be a non-conference doubleheader against Penn State. The Nittany Lions enter the game with an 11-30 record, having dropped their last four straight.

The first game is set to begin Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Christian Petrila is the softball reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact Christian at [email protected].