Softball team needs extra innings, not once, not twice, but three times in tourney

Joe Harrington

The Kent State softball team (5-5) was scheduled to play five games at the Strike Out Cancer Tournament in Boca Raton, Fla. However, the Flashes played six games over the weekend because three of the Flashes five games went into extra innings.

“Right now, I think it’s good for our team to have to deal with challenges and help us become more mentally tough,” coach Karen Linder said.

Kent State was led by sophomore pitcher Kylie Reynolds on Friday, as the Flashes defeated North Carolina State 6-2 in the first game of the double header. Reynolds struck out 12 batters, including four in a row, and threw her second straight one-hitter of the season. Senior Kim Hamilton doubled, tripled and scored twice to lead the Flashes on offense.

In the second game of the day, the Flashes played tournament host Florida Atlantic. Kent State defeated the Owls 2-1 in their first extra-inning game of the season.

Gabrielle Burns pitched all eight innings, as the Flashes played in the opening night game of the tournament. Senior Jessica Toocheck went 2-4 with two RBIs, while Hamilton scored the winning run in the bottom of the eighth.

With confidence from Friday’s wins over two 40-win teams from last season, the Flashes faced Missouri State and Long Island on Saturday.

“We knew they were tough teams, we knew they would be big wins,” Linder said. Linder said the tournament was a good experience because the level of competition was very high.

But the Flashes couldn’t carry the momentum to Saturday’s games, as the Flashes lost 3-2 against Missouri State and 3-0 against Long Island.

Kent State gave up just five hits over 10 innings against Long Island, the first game on Saturday. But the story wasn’t about Kent State, but rather Long Island pitcher Blaire Porter. The sophomore pitched a complete game no-hitter. Reynolds struck out five Blackbirds, before being replaced by Burns in the sixth.

It was the first time this season the Flashes have been held scoreless.

“She kept us off balance all day,” Linder said. “She had good movement on her pitches and we just didn’t see the ball well. We were a little frustrated. “

In the second game of the day, the Flashes could only manage back-to-back third inning RBI doubles against Missouri State in the afternoon game. Toocheck and freshman Jessie Carmichael drove in the only runs of the game.

Sunday the Flashes faced Florida Atlantic again, and once again the Flashes defeated the Owls in extra innings. Kent State won 6-5 in 10 innings, a turnaround from the previous day’s offensive struggles.

The Flashes didn’t gain the lead until the ninth inning, and trailed by three runs at one point in the game. Reynolds appeared in her fourth game over the weekend, but only pitched three innings, when Burns came on in relief for the second time during the weekend. Carmichael and senior Jamie Fitzpatrick both brought runners home in the third inning.

The Owls took a two-run lead after Burns walked a batter with the bases loaded, but Burns was able to get out of the inning without allowing any more runs. Burns struckout 16 batters in relief.

“She did a great job. I though she was mentally strong,” Linder said. “She made pitches in clutch situations and I’m extremely happy for her. She proved that she can be a go-to pitcher when we really need it.”

In the bottom of the tenth, Toocheck hit a game-winning single to give the Flashes the win.

“That was really exciting and I felt we really needed that, to find a way to come threw and win that game,” Linder said.

Kent State will travel to UNC-Charlotte for the First Pitch Classic this weekend. The Flashes will face South Carolina-Upstate and the tournament host, UNC-Charlotte.

Contact assistant sports editor Joe Harrington at [email protected].