Softball records another successful weekend on road

Christian Petrila

Kent State’s softball team was able to overcome a few hiccups to emerge from the Winthrop Invitational with its second consecutive winning weekend.

The Flashes opened the weekend with a spotless two-win Friday, where they defeated Western Illinois and North Carolina A&T.

In the first game against Western Illinois, the Flashes came away with a 4-3 win against the Leathernecks. As has been the case for much of the season, Emma Johnson pitched a complete game, allowing three runs (one earned) on just two hits while striking out eight.

The offense was aided by RBI hits from Lauren Grimes, Kim Kirkpatrick and Dani Ramos. Western Illinois cut the deficit to one in the top of the seventh, but Johnson was able to shut down the threat the rest of the inning and the Flashes were victorious.

The second game was against a North Carolina A&T team that was struggling mightily on the season. The Flashes took advantage of the sluggish Aggies and ended up winning 9-5.

Lauren McNeil followed up Johnson’s performance with a solid outing of her own, as she allowed five runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings, but she also struck out 10 Aggies.

In the Flashes’ biggest offensive outburst of the season, Kirkpatrick stole the show with two home runs (one being a grand slam) and five RBI. Grimes, defending MAC East player of the week Abbey Ledford and Jessacca Gironda drove in Kent State’s other four runs.

The second day saw the Flashes struggle offensively, as they only scored one run in 14 innings against Georgia and Winthrop.

“We just didn’t hit the ball like we needed to today,” head coach Karen Linder said. “And once again, we left too many runners on base.”

In the day’s first game, the Flashes fell to 24th-ranked Georgia, 8-1. The Flashes used three different pitchers to try to shut down the Bulldogs, but neither could stop the barrage of runs.

“I think Georgia is probably the best team that we have played so far this season,” Linder said. “We made too many mistakes defensively early on and they really did a good job of taking advantage of those mistakes.”

Kent State’s lone run against the Bulldogs came via a Shelbi Tilton RBI single in the fourth.

After the game with the Bulldogs concluded, the Flashes took on the weekend’s hosts, and Winthrop shut the Flashes down completely, winning 3-0.

Having been pulled after just two innings the game before, the Flashes were able to start Johnson again. Johnson performed well, allowing just three runs on five hits while striking out eight. Unfortunately for Johnson and the Flashes, the bats were silent all afternoon long.

“Emma [Johnson] had a difficult first inning and then settled in and pitched very well the rest of the way,” Linder said.

Needing a win on Sunday to come out of the Palmetto State with a winning record, the Flashes did just that as they beat Delaware State 5-3 in extra innings.

The Flashes fell behind early 3-0, but fought back with one run in the fourth and two in the sixth to tie it. In the eighth, they pulled ahead on RBI singles from Kirkpatrick and Lauren Balodis.

“I’m happy we were able to get another win by coming from behind,” Linder said. “Our players stayed confident and continued to battle throughout the game.”

McNeil got the start, but after a rough beginning, Johnson entered for her fourth game in three days. Johnson provided exceptional relief, tossing 6 2/3 shutout innings while striking out six.

“Emma [Johnson] did a nice job of shutting them down late with four consecutive 1-2-3 innings,” Linder said.

After the weekend set, the Flashes’ record now sits at 8-10. They have the weekend off before they finally make their home debut on March 19 when they face Youngstown State in a doubleheader at the diamond at Dix.

Contact Christian Petrila at [email protected].