Fitzpatrick’s grand slam sinks NIU

Doug Gulasy

Junior first baseman Jamie Fitzpatrick tags out Northern Illinois infielder Michelle Nendza in the top of the fifth inning Saturday. Though the Huskies rallied multiple times, the Flashes came out on top, 5-4. ELIZABETH MYERS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

It was difficult to tell which was better this weekend: the weather, with temperatures in the 70s, or the Kent State softball team.

The Flashes (24-15, 10-2 Mid-American Conference) beat Northern Illinois, 4-3, yesterday afternoon at the Diamond at Dix, capping off a weekend that saw a perfect game, a last-inning victory, a record-tying home run and, most importantly, the team taking three of four games from a MAC opponent.

“For us to win the (MAC) regular season title, it was very important for us to win three out of four this weekend,” coach Karen Linder said.

Freshman pitcher Kylie Reynolds got the victory for the Flashes. She surrendered four hits and three earned runs, but she walked none and struck out 15, including one to get out of a sixth-inning jam.

“For the first five innings, I thought she was very good,” Linder said. “She had a little difficulty in the sixth, but it was nice to see her get out of it and come back well for the seventh.”

The game was scoreless for the first four innings. Reynolds held the Huskies hitless in that span and struck out nine, including seven straight from the first to the third inning.

During that span, the Flashes’ best chance to score came in the bottom of the third. After two singles and a walk, the Flashes had the bases loaded with two outs, but junior first baseman Jamie Fitzpatrick struck out looking to end the threat.

The scoreless tie would end in the bottom of the fifth. Kent State senior catcher Lauren Ellis led off the inning with a walk and was sacrificed to second by senior second baseman Jessica Kramb. Junior center fielder Kim Hamilton was then hit by a pitch, and junior shortstop Jessica Toocheck singled to load the bases with one out.

After senior right fielder Brittney Robinson flied to center, Fitzpatrick stepped back to the plate. She atoned for her earlier strikeout by launching a pitch over the right-field wall for a grand slam.

The home run, Fitzpatrick’s 11th of the season, put her in a tie for the most career homers in Kent State softball history with 26.

“A grand slam is the most exciting thing to do or see in softball,” Linder said. “It pumps everybody up.”

Reynolds struggled in the sixth, giving up a leadoff single and hitting two batters – she hit four throughout the game – to load the bases with no outs. Northern Illinois designated hitter Randi Kreiter knocked a two-run double.

An infield single again loaded the bases again before Reynolds could get her first out of the inning. She then hit another batter to bring in the Huskies’ third run. However, she retired the next two batters on a pop-up behind the plate and a strikeout to end the threat.

“We did bend, but (Reynolds) buckled down and got out of the inning,” Linder said. “That was huge for us.”

Reynolds didn’t give the Huskies a chance to come back in the last inning, as she sat the side down in order.

Before the game, the team honored seniors Kramb, Ellis, Robinson and third baseman Megan Verde.

“They’ve done a lot for the program,” Linder said. “They were freshman the year we won the MAC East, and then we came back last year, their junior year, and won the East again and the MAC Tournament.”

The team split a doubleheader against Western Michigan on Friday, losing the first game, 3-1, despite Reynolds striking out 13. The Flashes beat the Broncos, 8-0, in the second game, with Robinson pitching the second perfect game in program history and hitting a three-run homer. Saturday, the team beat Northern Illinois, 5-4, when Hamilton knocked home Kramb with a triple in the bottom of the seventh.

Contact softball reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].