Hein’s hot streak leads to success in MAC

Chris Gates

Sophomore catcher leads softball team with nine home runs

Sophomore catcher for the Flashes, Ashlee Hein, reaches for a slightly high pitch from Kylie Reynolds on Saturday against Buffalo. Kent State left the field with a 2 to 0 victory to start the weekend. Shaye A. Painter | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Being selective at the plate typically isn’t a bad thing.

Being picky can lead a batter into trouble.

Sophomore catcher Ashlee Hein faced that problem during her freshman season and into the beginning of this year. Once the Mid-American Conference schedule started, though, something clicked.

“All it took was a couple of hits here and there,” Hein said. “At the beginning of the season, obviously I wasn’t hitting as well as I needed to.”

Hein broke out in the second MAC series, at Miami on April 3. She batted 3-for-6, hitting two home runs and five RBIs in a doubleheader sweep of the RedHawks.

The next Friday her success continued, as she batted 4-for-7 with a home run, double and two RBIs. Again, the Flashes earned a sweep, beating Ohio in a doubleheader at home.

It was the beginning of a 15-game conference stretch where she batted .348, hitting seven home runs and 17 RBIs – one of the most successful starts to a conference season in the program’s history.

“Earlier in the year she was taking a lot of pitches that I felt she had the ability to hit,” Kent State coach Karen Linder said. “She was just taking them … being a little too picky.

“Since conference play has started, she has done a better job of attacking pitchers early in the count. She’s always had the power; it was just a matter of getting into a comfort zone and seeing the ball better.”

Linder added that Hein’s hits frequently break open close games. In the middle of her current streak, Hein belted home runs in back-to-back games at Eastern Michigan. Both came in the first inning during her first at bat, setting the tone for the games.

Hein went deep early again last Friday in a win over Toledo, hitting a three-run homer run to open the game. She added a solo shot in the top of the fifth in a 7-3 win.

Hein’s seven MAC home runs are the most in a season by any Kent State player, and the team still has four conference games left to play. With nearly every home run coming with runners on base, Hein said she takes a different mindset with runners in scoring position.

“I want to say (my approach) doesn’t change, but I think it does,” Hein said. “I didn’t use to like those situations, but now that I’ve grown and become more confident, I like being in those situations.

“When I step up to the plate, I try not to really think a lot because I think that was one of my issues in the past – just thinking about what I did wrong here, what I did wrong there.”

As Hein has improved, so have the Flashes. The team has a chance to clinch both the MAC and MAC East regular season titles this weekend at home. They host a doubleheader with Cleveland State today at 3 p.m. in the last non-conference series of the year.

With her success and that of the team’s, Hein is looking forward to continuing her improvement and the team’s winning trend.

“It’s really tough coming in and being a freshman,” Hein said. “It’s just different than high school – not only the level of playing, but the pitching you see and going through slumps and having to deal with that mentally.

“I learned a lot last year, and I guess it took all of that to get me where I am today.”

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