Solidified lineup leading to better softball success

Chris Gates

Flashes have rebounded from slow start by winning five of their past seven games

The start of the 2009 Kent State softball season has been anything but typical – at least compared to the expectations the program has built.

Coming into this season, the Flashes had won 77 games in the previous two years, with a 46-12 record in 2008 and 31-19 record in 2007. Success has been a little harder to come by this season so far, with the Flashes recording a 13-16 overall record, 4-1 in the Mid-American Conference.

Kent State has already eclipsed last year’s loss total and is approaching its total from 2007. However, recent success has the team believing things are starting to turn around.

“We’ve had different aspects of the game at different points in time,” sophomore catcher Ashlee Hein said. “Sometimes we’d be hitting, sometimes we’d be playing good defense. But now it’s all starting to come together.

“We’re really growing as a team and learning our strengths, trusting our abilities.”

In the last seven games, the Flashes are 5-2 and have outscored opponents by a combined score of 37-19. Earlier in the season, the team lost nine of 10 games from February 13 through March 8, getting outscored by a total of 50-13.

Kent State Coach Karen Linder said it took players time to adapt to new roles. Early in the season, players were competing for spots, making it difficult to develop chemistry.

As the lineup has taken a consistent form, players have had more success at the plate.

“We just weren’t getting consistent production from the middle of our order early on,” Linder said. “I think that we’re doing that now.”

Junior outfielder Leah Archual has solidified her role as a leadoff hitter, owning a batting average of .316. Hein has found her place as the Flashes’ cleanup hitter.

Hein was the hero last weekend, as she belted two home runs and collected five RBIs. Her two-run home run in the first game of a doubleheader at Miami drove home the winning run in a 5-4 win.

Because of her performance over the weekend, Hein earned MAC East Player of the Week honors, as well as MAC Scholar Athlete of the Week.

“It’s a huge honor, obviously,” Hein said. “I’m only a sophomore, but I set really high goals, and that’s one of them.”

Now that the lineup has developed and Kent State is winning, the team expects the upward trend to continue. With games against Ohio, last year’s MAC title runner-up, and rival Akron, Linder wants to see continued improvement.

“We’ve got to continue to be able to be consistent and productive, putting runs on the board throughout the entire game,” Linder said. “I think that both of these teams are going to be very motivated to play against us.”

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