The queens of ‘K’ State

Deanna Stevens

Three softball pitchers are piling up the wins and the strikeouts this season


Credit: Jason Hall

Kent State softball coach Karen Linder dubbed senior Brittney Robinson, junior Gabrielle Burns and freshman Kylie Reynolds as “the best pitching staff I’ve ever had in 25 years of coaching.”

And their numbers back up Linder’s statement. As a staff, they have struck out 289 batters total and have held their opponents to just 53 runs.

All three pitchers have a distinctive style, and their specialties range from a change up to a curve ball.

“That is probably one reason why we’ve been so successful,” Burns said. “All three of us are very unselfish with things. We understand that each one of us have something to bring to the table.

“We all have our strengths and within our weaknesses, there is someone behind them that has that as a strength.”

Burns’ Heating Up:

Burns is known for slowing down the opposition’s offense with her speedy pitches.

“Gabe throws a lot of what you’d call ‘heat,'” Reynolds said. “She throws really fast.”

The junior has a 2-1 record, with a 1.58 ERA and 20 strikeouts. And when opponents have gotten their bats on the ball, distance hasn’t been an issue.

“Radara (McHugh, Kent State assistant coach) says I throw a heavy ball,” Burns said. “So whenever they do hit it, they’re not going to hit it as far. It’s hard for them to jack the ball on me.”

Burns has allowed only one double and one home run in her 17 innings, and not only does she throw hard, she brings a mental toughness to the mound.

“Nothing scares me,” Burns said. “Nothing sets me back at all on the field.”

This season, Burns said she’s worked to increase her repertoire. Although, like Reynolds, the curve is her go-to pitch, she has been working hard on her rise ball and her screwball.

She added that she was honored to be a part of the staff that Linder named the best.

“It feels good,” Burns said. “I guess I thought I would never be a part of such a successful team. I knew this was a good program, I guess I just never knew where it would go while I was here.”

Robinson’s Rising Ahead:

Coming off a season that earned her a Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year honor, Robinson is the elder statesman of the staff.

She struck out a school record 423 batters in her junior season and built a reputation as force on the mound.

This season, she’s struck out 105 batters in 74 innings and has a 7-6 record with a 2.55 ERA.

Opponents know Robinson most for her rise ball and her change up. Robinson said those pitches distinguish her from the rest of the staff.

“I complement them by having the rise ball and the change up that offsets any pitch that I throw,” Robinson said.

Although opponents may recognize those wicked, pinpoint pitches, her teammates see her as an energy source.

“I think I have a presence that my team can feed off when I’m on the mound,” Robinson said. “If they can see that I’m confident, then everyone else feel like there’s no problem.”

Robinson is also giving her team a boost with the bat. She is hitting .313 and leads the team in hits (30) and is second in home runs (3) and RBI (13).

The integrated math major will graduate this May, but it will not mark the end of her softball career. In the National Pro Fastpitch draft on Feb. 14, Robinson was selected by the Racers, Akron’s franchise.

Reynold’s Learning Curve:

As a freshman, Reynolds is taking the opportunity to learn from her fellow pitching staff members.

And it looks like she’s learned a lot in a hurry.

“It was definitely nerve racking, especially with all the other pitchers being upperclassmen,” Reynolds said. “But it’s a learning experience, so you can kind of see how they did it and made it.”

The Georgia-native has lived up to her 2006 Gatorade Softball Player of the Year expectations, posting an 8-4 record and a 0.95 ERA. The two-time MAC Pitcher of the Week’s pitch of choice is her curve ball, which she has used to strike out a staff-high 164 batters in 95 innings.

Even though the freshman is looking toward the upperclassmen for assistance, they say she doesn’t need to.

“She’s done an amazing job on her own,” Robinson said. “She’s so calm and relaxed and has this essence about her that she doesn’t need someone to show her how to do (things).

“I just stay on my spot, on the mound,” Reynolds said.

And that’s all she’s doing. She isn’t hitting this year because she doesn’t want other aspects of the game to interfere with pitching.

Contact softball reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].