Pitching silents opponents’ bats

Jeff Russ

Softball gets a no hitter and four victories in North Carolina

The last windup from a mound sitting 43 feet away from home plate had a special feel yesterday in Charlotte for the Kent State softball team.

Senior pitcher Karen Burns had a stat line that read like this: zero runs, zero hits, 6.2 innings pitched.

When South Carolina Upstate junior infielder Melissa Lockey swung and missed strike three, Burns had her no-hitter.

The no-hitter was just one in four wins this weekend for the softball team, as it won the First Pitch Classic at the Phillips Softball Complex in Charlotte.

“Gabby pitched very well yesterday and today,” coach Karen Linder said. “She did a good job of keeping the ball down and our defense did a really good job behind her.

“We made a lot of big defensive plays in the field that really kept the no hitter alive. She’s really excited about it.”

The no-hitter was the first ever for Burns. In two games this weekend, she went 2-0, striking out 18 and allowing only one run in 13 innings.

The key has been the pitching all season for the Flashes (9-5). In six of the team’s victories it has allowed two or less hits.

“We’ve got an excellent pitching staff and they are doing a great job,” Linder said. “So far, that has been the one constant for us. They kept us in all games.”

But the bats also showed up for the Flashes this weekend.

In the first game of the weekend, Saturday against Charlotte, senior shortstop Jessica Toocheck hit a home run in a 3-1 victory. In Saturday’s game against South Carolina Upstate, Toocheck knocked a three-run triple into right field in the sixth inning of a 4-3 game that led to an 8-3 victory for the Flashes.

The Flashes equaled their highest single game scoring output in a 9-0 victory against Stony Brook Saturday morning. In that game, Toocheck hit her second home run of the weekend with a two-run blast over the right field wall in the sixth inning.

“She came through under pressure,” Linder said. “She hit two homers and had a triple. The triple was a huge hit in a close game.”

“She’s playing with a lot more confidence right now and has been able to come through for us.”

Toocheck was the tournament’s most valuable player, hitting over .500 in the four games with two home runs and seven RBI’s in the four games.

Before the team left for the weekend, Linder said she thought the team could win a few games, and after the last game was over Sunday, she said her team put it all together.

“Pitchers did their job, defensively we’re solid and offensively we were able to put more runs on the board consistently throughout the game and throughout the lineup and we had a variety of people contribute in a variety of lineups,” she said.

“I think this weekend was a huge stepping stone for us in an offensive standpoint,” she added.

After traveling to North Carolina and Florida the past three weekends, the team gets a week off before a trip to Atlanta March 7-9.

Contact sports editor Jeff Russ at [email protected].