Each Fitzpatrick home run will set a new mark for KSU softball

Doug Gulasy

Junior Jamie Fitzpatrick is solidifying her spot as one of the top sluggers in the history of Kent State softball.

Sam Twarek | Daily Kent State

Credit: Ron Soltys

Junior first baseman Jamie Fitzpatrick stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning Sunday with the bases loaded, two outs and her team locked in a scoreless tie with Northern Illinois.

In a similar situation in the bottom of the third, Fitzpatrick — Kent State’s cleanup hitter — struck out on a questionable called third strike.

Still, if Fitzpatrick felt any pressure in the fifth to make up for what had happened in the third, she wasn’t admitting it afterwards.

“I think, for me, that last at-bat was — it was already gone,” Fitzpatrick said. “I had already released it, because I knew it wasn’t necessarily my fault.

“And for me to get that opportunity again in the same game was just a bonus for me, and I was more excited. I was going to take advantage of the opportunity that I was given.”

Fitzpatrick did take advantage, connecting on a pitch from Northern Illinois pitcher Taryn Hagemann and sending it sailing over the wall in right to give the Flashes a 4-0 lead, providing the team’s only runs in what would become a 4-3 victory.

The sight of Fitzpatrick rounding the bases after a home run has become familiar to Kent State softball fans. The grand slam Sunday was her 11th homer of the year and the 26th of her career, tying her with Denae Jones atop Kent State’s all-time leaderboard.

“I don’t really worry about that kind of stuff,” Fitzpatrick said of the record. “I’m more worried about the team and the success of the team, and if it happens, it just happens.”

Because the record-tying homer won the game for the Flashes, Fitzpatrick said she would “take that any day.”

“If I hit three home runs and we lost, it wouldn’t mean anything, but to be able to contribute to the team’s win means more than even the record,” Fitzpatrick said, adding that the record was “a bonus.”

Fitzpatrick has been a major contributor thus far in the team’s 24-15 (10-2 Mid-American Conference) season. She leads the team in batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, RBIs and total bases. On Monday, she was named MAC East Division Player of the Week for the fourth time this season.

“With every swing of her bat, she has the ability to put it over the fence, and I think people in our conference know that,” coach Karen Linder said. “There have been times when she’s mis-hit a ball, but because of her bat speed and her power swing, she can (do that) and still hit one hard and far.”

With her success at Kent State, it’s hard to believe Fitzpatrick, a Georgia native, had “never even heard of” the university before being recruited.

“I didn’t know what state it was in, I knew nothing about the (May 4) shootings, I was completely clueless,” Fitzpatrick said. “But I had a very open mind about where I wanted to go. I never had pinpointed, like, ‘This is where I want to go,’ before I got recruited.

“And so afterwards, I came up here, I loved it. I enjoyed the coaches and the team and thought that this is where I’d like to spend my four years.”

It’s likely the career home run mark isn’t the only record Fitzpatrick will set this season. With eight regular season games and postseason play to go, she is one homer behind the Kent State single-season record, 12, which she set last year.

“I mean, to break your own record, I think, is really nice,” Fitzpatrick said. “But (I’d like) just for our team to go further and just get better every year — build upon it, take it and just build upon it.”

Contact softball reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].