Softball returns after successful 10-game trip

Christian Petrila

Kent State’s softball team is finally home after a 10-game road trip that resulted in the Flashes being tied atop the Mid-American Conference East standings.

The trip saw the team play 10 games in a 10-day stretch, and the Flashes responded by going 7-2-1 over the course of the trip.

“We kept battling throughout the full week,” head coach Karen Linder said. “We played a lot of close ballgames and we took advantage of some mistakes from the other team.”

Linder was also pleased with the way all parts of the game panned out during the trip.

“We came through with some big plays defensively, our pitchers did a nice job and offensively, we put together some things,” Linder said. “I think when you’re playing close ballgames, it’s all about having timely hitting and we had some timely clutch hitting.”

Finally getting the chance to play at home is a welcome change for some of the players. Senior Lauren Balodis was the most excited about the chance to play in front of the home crowd.

“It’s going to be fantastic playing at home,” Balodis said. “It’s just so much better without the travel and whatnot and that home atmosphere is just a lot easier to play in and it makes us a lot more competitive.”

The Flashes open up the brief four-game homestand with two games against Northern Illinois Friday, who enter the weekend with a 13-26 record and a 3-7 conference mark.

The Huskies visit having snapped an eight-game losing streak last Saturday against Eastern Michigan. Hitting has been a bit of a struggle for NIU, as they’re hitting .260 as a team and they’ll likely have to face Emma Johnson, who was named MAC East Pitcher of the Week for the third time this season.

“We’ve just got to take care of business like we have,” Linder said. “I think against [Bowling Green] we put all four phases of the game together in both ballgames and we’ve got to continue to do that.”

After Northern Illinois departs, Western Michigan will come rolling in. The Broncos enter the weekend with a 13-23 record and a 4-6 record in the MAC.

Kent State’s bats that started to come alive during the road trip will have a chance to continue the hot streak against a staff with a cumulative ERA of 5.22.

“We are getting more and more confident in our offense,” Linder said. “I think we’re doing a better job with timing pitchers up, so that has helped us a lot and I think they’re in a confident, comfortable zone and I think confidence is the most important factor in hitting.”

Much like Northern Illinois, Western Michigan also has its struggles on offense as they’re hitting just .249 on the season.

Pitcher Lauren McNeil knows that each of Kent State’s pitchers brings something that can help them succeed.

“One thing that really works well for us is we’re all so different,” McNeil said. “When teams see us, they’re getting something different from every person and we really compliment each other in that way.”

After the homestand, the Flashes travel to Penn State for their final non-conference road games of the season. They waste no time coming back home, as they face Buffalo next weekend.

“We look at every team the same and we’re out to get them,” McNeil said. “We want that MAC Championship and that’s our goal every time we play someone. One game at a time.”

First pitch against NIU is at 1 p.m. Friday.

Contact Christian Petrila at [email protected].