Jager bombed

Chris Gates

1-3 weekend sinks softball’s top seed hopes

Kent State’s Ashlee Hein rips a home run Friday in the softball team’s first game against Northern Illinois. The Flashes split the doubleheader, winning the first game 3-0 and losing the second 3-0. Shaye A. Painter | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Going into the weekend, the Kent State softball team had a chance to clinch the No. 1 seed in this week’s Mid-American Conference tournament.

But after the Flashes went 1-3 over the weekend – including a 7-4 loss yesterday to Western Michigan – they missed out on the top spot.

Yesterday’s game went into extra innings, and in the top of the eighth, Broncos’ left fielder Lexi Jager hit a three-run home run to win.

The eighth inning started in Kent State’s favor, as junior pitcher Kylie Reynolds struck out the first two batters. With two outs, Reynolds hit a batter and gave up a single, allowing two baserunners before Jager stepped to the plate.

“That was a really big hit for them,” designated hitter Amy Hair said. “That was why we didn’t pull through. In our clutch situations, we need to come up with some more big hits.”

Kent State took the early lead, scoring four runs in the second inning. Hair singled with the bases loaded, driving in two runs. Sophomore shortstop Jess Carmichael followed with another single, driving in two runs to put the Flashes ahead 4-0.

The Broncos responded in the next inning with four runs of their own. The score remained tied at 4-4 until the eighth inning.

“Even though we lost, it doesn’t feel like a loss,” Hair said. “We fought and we stayed strong the whole game. It’s just disappointing that it had to end that way.”

Kent State had a chance to win the game in regulation when it loaded the bases in the sixth inning with just one out. However, junior outfielder Leah Archual popped up to short and freshman pinch hitter Jessica Blanton lined out to right field, ending the inning.

“Jessica Blanton hit a shot to the right fielder and the right fielder made a shoestring catch,” Kent State coach Karen Linder said. “Had the right fielder not been playing where she was, that thing goes to the fence, and we take control of that game.

“We had several scoring opportunities. In some of those opportunities we hit the ball hard, we just hit it right at people.”

The Flashes have been trying to turn things around ever since Wednesday’s doubleheader against Cleveland State. Kent State lost both games in what Linder called a “complete lack of focus.”

Since then, the Flashes have gone 1-3, splitting a doubleheader with Northern Illinois on Friday in a 3-0 win and a 3-0 loss. They also lost to Western Michigan on Saturday by a score of 8-4.

Even though the Flashes haven’t responded with a winning record since Wednesday, they have noticed aspects of their game coming back.

“Cleveland State was a low point for us,” Hair said. “It hadn’t been like that all season. When we came into this weekend, we knew that we needed to figure out what happened and fix it. We definitely took forward steps.”

Linder agreed that the team has moved in the right direction since then. However, she said the team must do a better job of executing in crucial game situations, like yesterday’s sixth inning.

“I think we still need to come through with a few more clutch hits,” Linder said. “(We’ve had) too many strikeouts with runners on base.”

Contact principal sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].