Softball goes 2-2 on season-opening weekend

Christian Petrila

The Kent State softball team took to the diamond this past weekend at the Auburn Invitational, splitting the four contests evenly and leaving Alabama 2-2 to start the season.

The Flashes faced East Tennessee State first and came away with a 5-4 win. Kent State fell behind 3-2 in the second inning, but the Flashes were able to strike back with three runs in the bottom of the frame despite one hit. An error, walk and hit loaded the bases for batter Abbey Ledford, who cleared the bags with a three-run double.

“We really took advantage of mistakes by the other team and came through with some clutch hits,” Flashes head coach Karen Linder said. “Lauren [Grimes] and Abbey [Ledford] had clutch hits for us in that first game.”

In the second game against Army, Emma Johnson picked up where she left off last season by twirling a complete game in which she allowed just two runs while striking out 11.

“[Johnson] took a while to get in a rhythm, but once she did, she had a nice game,” Linder said.

Once again, the Flashes benefited from miscues, winning 5-2. Army committed three errors – much like East Tennessee State earlier in the day – which led to four Kent State runs. At the end of the day, only two of Kent State’s 10 runs were earned on their own merit.

The second day wasn’t quite as kind to the Flashes, despite getting an early edge in both games.

The first matchup was against host Auburn. The Flashes gave Johnson a 2-0 first inning lead, but Auburn would tie the game on two separate occasions before breaking a 3-3 tie with two runs in the ninth inning.

Auburn was led by Marcy Harper, who allowed two earned runs in 6.1 innings before Hilary Mavromat came in to record her first save of the year.

In the second game against Furman, the Flashes once again broke through in the very first inning as they scored four against Paladins starter Shelby Parker, capped off by a Catie Kilbane two-run home run.

Unfortunately for the Flashes, the offense would sputter after Furman pulled Parker in favor of Meaghan Houston. Houston shut down the Kent State batters, allowing only one run while striking out eight in her 6.1 innings of relief.

“We had a great offensive first inning but did not make any adjustments after Furman made the pitching change,” Linder said.

Unable to replicate her performance from the day before, McNeil took the loss for Kent State as she gave up six runs (four earned) on 11 hits in 5.2 innings.

Linder was not discouraged by the second day at all.

“The weekend allowed us to identify some areas we can improve on and we have all next week to focus on strengthening them since we don’t play for two weeks,” Linder said.

Next up for the Flashes is a trip to Kentucky for the Louisville Invitational Feb. 22 to 24.

Contact Christian Petrila at [email protected].