Softball takes commanding division lead in weekend sweep

Sophomore+outfielder+Dani+Ramos+makes+a+safe+leap+to+first+base+for+Kent+State+during+a+double+header+against+University+of+Akron+on+Saturday%2C+March+30.+Kent+State+defeated+Akron+in+both+games%2C+the+first+with+a+final+score+of+2-1+and+the+second+with+a+final+score+of+5-3.+Photo+by+Jenna+Watson.

Sophomore outfielder Dani Ramos makes a safe leap to first base for Kent State during a double header against University of Akron on Saturday, March 30. Kent State defeated Akron in both games, the first with a final score of 2-1 and the second with a final score of 5-3. Photo by Jenna Watson.

Christian Petrila

Kent State is atop the Mid-American Conference East division after sweeping a doubleheader against Buffalo on Saturday by the scores of 4-1 and 7-6.

The series was initially scheduled to be played on Saturday and Sunday, but rain forecast caused the teams to play the doubleheader on Saturday.

In the first game, Emma Johnson lowered her sub-two ERA even more, as she tossed a complete game in which she allowed just four hits and one unearned run. She also made quick work of the Bulls, as the game was over in one hour and 31 minutes.

Kent State’s first run scored when Lauren Balodis was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. The other three runs all came in the fifth on a Dani Ramos double, Kim Kirkpatrick single and Lauren Grimes suicide squeeze.

The second game took twice as long to complete as the first, as the Flashes and Bulls took part in an 11-inning battle that lasted until sunset.

The Flashes gave starter Lauren McNeil some early padding with a three-run first, but it was short-lived as the Bulls got all three runs back in the next half inning.

From there, the Bulls and Flashes were matching each other punch for punch. For example, Balodis’ third-inning home run was quickly erased in the fourth by a Sammi Gallardo home run for the Bulls.

Buffalo took its first lead in the top of the seventh off of Emma Johnson, but the lead was far from safe against a Flashes team that seems to excel when playing from behind.

“We keep talking about being very confident and taking the game one game at a time, one inning at a time and one pitch at a time,” head coach Karen Linder said. “Right now, they just have a lot of confidence in themselves and in each other. I think they have more confidence in each other than anything, and they believe and they trust.”

The first two batters got aboard in the bottom of the seventh on two perfectly placed bunts. Lauren Grimes came up and tried to sacrifice them over to second and third, but the throw to third went over the third baseman’s head and Ramos scored the tying run.

The game went on until the bottom of the 11th inning, when Kirkpatrick singled to second and scored Caitie Kilbane to end it.

After the game, the four seniors — Lauren Balodis, Lauren Grimes, Danielle Abernathy and Natalie Bagby — were all honored for their commitment to Kent State softball over the past four years.

“It was really important because they did so much for our program and we wanted to get two more wins for them,” Johnson said about the seniors.

The wins improved the Flashes’ record in the MAC to 13-5, which has them two and a half games in front of second-place Miami.

“They came to the field today with a mentality that they were going to win two and we may have bent, but we didn’t break,” Linder said. “We had some mistakes in that second game, but we recovered from them and just kept at it and found a way to win.”

The team hosts its home finale on Tuesday, as the Flashes play a doubleheader against Cleveland State. The first game starts at 3 p.m.

Contact Christian Petrila at [email protected].