Kent State’s offense struggled to pick up some solid pitching performances and ended up going 0-4 over the weekend in Louisville.
It was a tough weekend offensively for the Flashes, as they were shut out twice, lost in extra innings twice (including one of the aforementioned shutouts) and lost three games by just one run.
“Offensively, we need to start doing a better job of getting our bats on the ball,” head coach Karen Linder said.
The first game of the weekend was a gritty, extra-inning 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Bulls. The Flashes did get seven hits, but couldn’t get the key hit when they needed it. Finally, the Bulls broke through in the bottom of the eighth, as Buffalo’s Alexis Curtiss drove in the game-winning run with a single.
Lauren McNeil (1-2) led the Flashes on the mound, going seven innings while allowing six hits and three runs (two earned). She struck out five and walked three.
“Lauren McNeil gave us a really good performance on the mound,” Linder said. “Today was probably one of her best outings. She battled the entire game and kept us in it even though we weren’t able to produce runs.”
The afternoon’s second game pitted Emma Johnson (1-2) and the Flashes against the 18th-ranked Louisville Cardinals. Louisville put on a show for the hometown fans, as they limited the Flashes to just one hit — a Kim Kirkpatrick double — and were shut out for the first time on the season in a 5-0 loss.
“Against Louisville, we put a very inexperienced lineup on the field,” Linder said. “We hope to develop some consistency in the lineup as the season goes on and we are still trying to find a lineup that is going to be productive for us and able to manufacture runs.”
Johnson bounced back the next day against Eastern Illinois; but the offense wasn’t able to pick her up as the Flashes fell once again in extra innings, 1-0. She went eight innings, allowing just the lone run — which was unearned — while scattering five hits and striking out seven.
“Emma pitched very well today,” Linder said. “She did a great job for us and allowed us to be in a position to win the game despite our lineup’s struggles.”
The struggles Linder talked about primarily revolved around a scoring drought, which had reached 17 innings by the time the game was over and would carry into Sunday’s action.
Kent State’s weekend finale was a shot at redemption against Louisville. After McNeil struggled in the early going, Johnson was called upon to try to subdue the hosts. Once again, she answered the call.
With Louisville leading 2-0 in the second, Johnson came in and kept the Cardinals in check for 4 1/3 innings in which she allowed just one run and struck out two.
“Our pitchers did a great job holding them to just four hits,” Linder said. “And our defense did its part and made some great diving stops to help them out.”
The Flashes finally broke a 21-inning scoreless drought in the top of the fifth on an RBI single from Shelbi Tilton and a wild pitch that scored Chloe Kesterson. However, Louisville went ahead for good in the bottom of the sixth when Maggie Ruckenbrod got the go-ahead hit.
Despite going 0-4, Linder wasn’t discouraged. In fact, she said she left Louisville feeling very optimistic about her team’s outlook.
“Things are starting to come together,” Linder said. “I look forward to playing next weekend to build on the growth that took place today.”
Next weekend, the Flashes travel to South Florida, where they’ll play five games in the USF Invitational.
Christian Petrila is the softball reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact Christian Petrila at [email protected]