Softball faces Penn State in doubleheader

The Kent State bats against Northern Illinois on Friday, Apr. 19. The Flashes lost 5-1. Photo by Rachael Le Goubin.

The Kent State bats against Northern Illinois on Friday, Apr. 19. The Flashes lost 5-1. Photo by Rachael Le Goubin.

Christian Petrila

Kent State University’s softball team (21-16-1, 11-5 Mid-American Conference) takes on its final non-conference road foe of the season, as they to State College, Pa., to challenge Penn State (11-30, 2-14 Big Ten Conference) Wednesday for a doubleheader.

After a 2-2 weekend at home against Northern Illinois and Western Michigan, the Flashes have a chance to bounce back against a struggling Penn State squad. Pitcher Emma Johnson knows the sweep against Western Michigan was big for her and her teammates.

“It is very crucial to get this sweep because we need some more wins so we can pick up the MAC East,” Johnson said. “Going into Penn State, these [wins] are really positive because the momentum’s going to keep going forward.”

A key area for both teams today is defense. While the Flashes have been steadily improving defensively all season, it hasn’t quite been as easy for the Nittany Lions, who have 60 errors on the year.

“The defense really makes a difference for us, and it’s something that’s been the most consistent for us all year,” said head coach Karen Linder. “Our pitching has been pretty consistent, but our defense has been really consistent all year.”

Johnson enters the doubleheader having logged 20 2/3 innings over the weekend.

“When we enter a conference weekend, we anticipate that Emma may make an appearance in all four games, so we’re prepared from that standpoint,” Linder said. “On the third day, I like to start somebody else and [pitcher Lauren] McNeil has been our starter; but if those pitchers that are in on that third day get into trouble, then we’re not going to hesitate to go to Emma right away.”

Johnson continues to be the team’s go-to workhorse. After the weekend series, she now stands with a 16-8 record and a tidy 1.80 ERA.

She’ll have her hands full with Penn State’s Cassidy Bell, who enters play with a .464 average, 18 home runs and 39 RBI. She’s also likely to try and steal a base when she gets on, successfully stealing on 16 of 19 attempts this season.

The first pitch against Penn State is Wednesday at 3 p.m.

After the doubleheader, the Flashes return to the Diamond at Dix for a two-game weekend series against Buffalo on Saturday and Sunday, after which Cleveland State comes to visit for a Tuesday doubleheader.

Contact hristian Petrila at [email protected].