KSU leads MAC, set for Chippewas

Brad Tansey

After winning three out of four games last weekend, the Kent State softball team returns to action today with a doubleheader against Eastern Michigan that will begin their final stretch of Mid-American Conference games at home.

The Flashes, who currently sit in first place in the MAC, will play second-place Central Michigan on Saturday and Sunday as well.

Kent State coach Karen Linder said she expects all four games to be a battle.

“Eastern Michigan is a very scrappy team,” Linder said. “I don’t think their record is indicative of how good they can be.”

The Eagles (15-26, 4-10 MAC) have lost 11 out of their last 15 games, including six of their last eight.

Kent State leads the all-time series against Eastern Michigan 41-27. The Flashes (24-17, 11-3 MAC) have swept the two-game series from the Eagles the past two seasons.

On the other hand, Central Michigan has something to prove this season, Linder said.

“They (Central Michigan) are kind of on a mission to prove themselves,” Linder said.

The Chippewas (24-13, 10-4 MAC) are one game behind the Flashes for first place in the MAC standings.

Kent State has won four straight games over the past two seasons against Central Michigan.

Linder said the Flashes haven’t seen any of the four pitchers Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan may use.

“In some respect, for us, sometimes that’s a good thing because then our players just read and react instead of thinking too much,” she said. “I’m looking forward to see how we’re going to deal with this.”

Since Feb. 5, Kent State has won 23 out of its last 31 games. During that span, senior pitcher Kylie Reynolds is 18-5 with a 1.42 ERA. Among active pitchers, Reynolds ranks second in the nation with 1,156 career strikeouts.

Junior third baseman Jessica Carmichael was named MAC East Player of the Week on Tuesday.

Carmichael went 7-for-14 with two home runs and a .929 slugging percentage last weekend.

“The last couple of weeks, she’s been on fire,” Linder said. “She’s seeing the ball really well. She’s come through with clutch hits for us when we really needed them.”

Carmichael leads the team with nine home runs and 25 RBIs.

The Flashes were without pitching coach Amy Densevich last weekend, who had a baby on Thursday. Linder said she was “extremely proud of the pitchers and catchers.”

“They (pitchers and catchers) did a good job of doing their own jobs without somebody there,” Linder said. “They took ownership of what our team did from a pitching standpoint. It was a combined effort between the pitchers and the catchers.”

Reynolds went 3-1 last weekend, including two wins against Akron. Junior left-handed pitcher Markie Pozzuto pitched 2 2/3 innings in the team’s win against Ohio.

Contact sports correspondent Brad Tansey at [email protected].