Softball rebounds with successful weekend

Christian Petrila

Kent State softball returned from the USF Under Armour Invitational with the bounce-back performance it was looking for, going 3-2 in its five games.

Pitching was key for the Flashes once again, as Kent State pitchers held opponents to two runs or fewer in four of the five games. On top of that, the team’s cumulative ERA for the five games was a mere 2.68.

“Our pitchers did an excellent job for us today, our defense is holding steady, and our offense is starting to come around,” head coach Karen Linder said after the first game Friday.

In that first game against an 8-2 Eastern Kentucky team, the Flashes rallied from a 2-1 deficit entering the final inning. Erika Warren hit a one-out triple to score Michele Duffy from first to tie the game.

The game would go into extra innings where Lauren Grimes singled to score Abbey Ledford, who was followed by Dani Ramos after a throwing error. Emma Johnson finished the game, and her final line was dominant. She pitched all seven innings, allowing just two runs (one earned) on six hits while striking out eight.

The second game saw the Flashes take on an Illinois-Chicago team that had started the season 0-10. Unfortunately for the Flashes, the bats fell silent again as they lost to the Flames, 2-1. Lauren McNeil was the tough-luck loser for the Flashes as she tossed six solid innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits.

“Lauren McNeil, after giving up two runs in the first, she shut them out the rest of the way,” Linder said. “I was pleased with the way recovered and was able to shut them down.”

The third game of the weekend proved to be the biggest speed bump for the Flashes, as they lost to a tough Georgia State team, 9-3. McNeil couldn’t replicate her performance from the day before, as she lasted only one inning, in which she gave up three runs while walking five.

Kent State rebounded quickly and handed a powerful Florida Gulf Coast team its only loss of the weekend with a 3-1 Flashes victory. Johnson was on the mound and she was masterful, allowing a mere one run on two hits while striking out 10.

“[Johnson] had one of the best performances of her career, throwing a two-hitter against a very good team in Florida Gulf Coast,” Linder said. “And really, it should have been a one-hitter, but there was a bad hop on a grounder in the seventh that would have been a routine play.”

The weekend finale came Sunday morning against Quinnipiac. The Flashes fought back from an early deficit and McNeil and Johnson combined to stymie the Bobcats hitters in a 4-1 win.

The Flashes fell behind 1-0 in the first, but the aforementioned tandem of McNeil and Johnson shut down the Bobcats the rest of the game. The Flashes put up four runs courtesy of RBI singles from Shelbi Tilton and Lauren Balodis and a fielding error while Kim Granata was batting.

“It was a good come-from-behind win and allowed us to keep the momentum from our win against Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday,” Linder said. “To be able to come back like that two days in a row, especially playing at 9 in the morning, is awesome.”

Kent State’s record now stands at 5-8 after a solid weekend. Next up is another five-game series at the Winthrop Invitational, where they will face Western Illinois, North Carolina A&T, Georgia, Winthrop and Delaware State.

The first game starts Friday at 2 p.m.

Contact Christian Petrila at [email protected].