Softball goes 3-2 in Weekend Series at N.C. State

Tim Dorst

After a week off from competition, the Kent State softball team returned to action this past weekend with five games in the NC State Wolfpack Challenge.

Offense was the key for the Flashes, who won three of their five games by a margin of seven runs or more. Overall, the Flashes scored 34 runs, 23 of them in two games on Saturday.

Coach Karen Linder said that she was excited about how her team looked from an offensive standpoint.

“Overall, we played pretty well,” Linder said. “I think our hitting made a lot of strides this weekend. We had a lot of power that showed up.”

Abbey Ledford, sophomore second baseman, was stellar over the weekend, hitting two home runs and tallying 11 RBIs for the Flashes. Lauren McNeil, sophomore right-handed pitcher, went 2-0 in three starts.

Friday, Game 1 — Kent State 9, Lehigh 2

Kent State got off to an early lead against Lehigh, scoring eight runs in the first two innings.

Sophomore Abbey Ledford started things off with a two-out, two-run single in the first inning. Mary Holt, senior third baseman, followed with a double to left center field, driving in two more runs.

After scoring on a sacrifice fly by sophomore shortstop Alex Marcantonio in the second inning, the Flashes rattled off three straight hits. Senior catcher Jessica Blanton hit an RBI double to left center, and Ledford smashed a solo home run over the left field wall.

Holt extended Kent State’s lead with a solo home run in the fifth inning. Both Holt and Ledford went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs apiece.

Right-handed pitcher McNeil threw a complete game, giving up just two runs on eight hits and striking out seven for the win.

Friday, Game 2 — NC State 8, Kent State 0

The Flashes and the Wolfpack were both scoreless through the first three innings, but mistakes in the fourth inning led to the Flashes falling behind.

NC State led off the fourth with a home run and capitalized on an error and four walks. The Wolfpack scored all eight of their runs in this inning, which proved to be the difference in the game.

Saturday, Game 1 — Kent State 15, NC State 8

Kent State’s power hitting was on display Saturday afternoon, as the Flashes tallied season-highs of 15 runs and 15 hits.

With the game tied at two, Ledford broke the game wide open in the third inning with a three-run home run to left field. Later in the inning, Marcantonio hit a bases-clearing double to right center, extending the Flashes’ lead to six.

NC State began to battle back with four runs in the fourth inning and cut Kent State’s lead to one until Blanton’s RBI double in the top of the sixth gave the Flashes a two-run lead. However, the Wolfpack answered with a run in the bottom of the inning.

Nonetheless, the Flashes were not to be outdone. With runners on second and third and one out in the seventh inning, Marcantonio zipped a triple down the right field line, driving in two runs. After a walk and a single, Ledford hit a triple of her own that also drove in two.

Marcantonio and Ledford both finished with three hits and five RBIs for the game.

Sophomore Lauren McNeil pitched four innings and relinquished seven runs, only two of them earned, for her second win of the weekend and third of the season.

Saturday, Game 2: Kent State 8, Georgetown 0

Emma Johnson, freshman right-hand pitcher, threw a five-hit shutout and struck out five batters Saturday night against the Hoyas.

Caitie Kilbane, sophomore right fielder, led off the third inning with a solo homer, sparking a three-run inning for the Flashes. Kent State got doubles in the inning from Marcantonio, Lauren Grimes, junior center fielder and Kim Kirkpatrick, freshman left fielder.

In the fifth inning, the Flashes capitalized on three errors by the Hoyas and scored five runs on four hits. The inning was highlighted by Ledford’s bases-loaded single that drove in three runs.

Sunday — Pittsburgh 5, Kent State 2

The Flashes lost their final game of the NC State Wolfpack Challenge to Pittsburgh, 5-2. The Flashes tied the game at two in the top of the fourth inning, but the Panthers answered with two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth to pull away.

Kent State’s two runs came from solo home runs by freshman Kim Kirkpatrick and Shannon Laughlin, senior first baseman. The Flashes had runners on first and second with one out, but couldn’t capitalize.

Linder said her team didn’t have as much energy Sunday morning, having played against Georgetown the night before. However, she said she sees it not as an excuse, but as a learning experience.

“In the MAC tournament, you could end up starting a game late at night and have to turn around and play the next morning,” Linder said. “This game was good experience for our kids to do that and know what it’s like before the tournament.”

The Flashes (4-6) will travel to Huntington, W.Va., next weekend for the Marshall Invitational.

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].