Pitching keys two weekend victories

Jeff Russ

The Kent State softball team spent the weekend building momentum while facing a nationally ranked opponent in Athens, Ga.

The Flashes (15-7) swept Albany in three games this weekend, winning 3-2, 4-2 and 4-0 over the Great Danes.

The Flashes, though, struggled in the second half of Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders with 2-0 and 3-1 losses over No. 20 ranked Georgia.

“I’m happy with the wins,” coach Karen Linder said. “To beat someone three times is difficult, and we shut (Albany) out Sunday, so that was an improvement to the first two days.

“I was a little disappointed about the losses. If we had hit better we would have had different results,” she added.

The fifth inning of Sunday’s win was the most beneficial for the Flashes.

In the game, the Flashes went the first four innings without a run, but senior shortstop Jessica Toocheck’s two-run homer keyed the four-run inning. It would be all the Flashes needed, as they won 4-0, behind the pitching of senior Gabrielle Burns.

Burns pitched all seven innings, only allowing two hits and striking out four.

“For the most part, our pitchers did a job,” Linder said. “Offensively we were up and down. It took us some time to adjust to Albany, and we never really adjusted against Georgia.”

After defeating Albany for its 11th win in 12 games, the Flashes struggled against Georgia on the Bulldogs’ home field.

The Flashes struggled to get the offense going against Georgia pitcher Kate Gaskill.

Gaskill, the national pitcher of the week, allowed only one hit – a home run by senior outfielder Corey Houk in the second inning. But it was all the Flashes could do, as Gaskill struck out 13 and didn’t allow another baserunner the rest of the game.

The Bulldogs went on to win 3-1.

Linder said playing against a nationally ranked team like Georgia will benefit the team in the long run.

“It gives us a level of confidence,” she said. “No one in the conference will intimidate us. In several games we found a way to win.”

“We faced great pitchers and every game was a very close ball game. We were able to hang with a Top 20 team.”

The Flashes will come to Kent for the first time Wednesday, as they host Robert Morris in a doubleheader.

After spending the first month of the season on a bus or plane, Linder said the team is looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd.

“I think it adds to the level of excitement,” she said. “Playing in front of the family helps keep the team motivated. It is always more fun to play at home.”

Contact sports editor Jeff Russ at [email protected].