Softball ready for home opener

Deanna Stevens

The Kent State softball team is on a streak of seven straight wins, but today they will finally get a chance to match up against an opponent in familiar territory.

After a month and a half of playing in tournaments all across the country and beginning Mid-American Conference play on the road, the Flashes (17-11, 4-0 MAC) will return to Kent to face Cleveland State in a doubleheader at 3 p.m. today in the home opener.

If it doesn’t snow, at least.

Cleveland State (17-5) is coming off Sunday’s 6-3 victory at home versus Wisconsin-Green Bay. The Vikings were down 3-1 in the fourth inning, but rallied back for their second Horizon Conference win. Sophomore Haley Keller led the comeback with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth.

Kent State coach Karen Linder said the Vikings are a good-hitting team, which makes them dangerous. She added Cleveland State also has a strong pitching staff.

“They’re always a strong team,” Kent State junior pitcher Gabrielle Burns said about the Vikings. “They’re always a team that is going to be scrappy and put up a fight until the end. I think if we bring our ‘A’ game every day there is no team in this state, (or) in our conference that is going to beat us.”

With all the road tournaments this season, Linder said the Flashes will have an advantage with their experience.

“I don’t think they’ve played as strong a schedule as we have,” she said. “They haven’t been tested by a really good team yet.”

Early in the season, the Flashes faced some of the top softball teams in the country, Linder said, and although they may not have gotten the win, they gained a lot of knowledge on what it takes to win.

And Kent State has taken its education to heart in the early stages of the MAC season, sweeping both Bowling Green and Toledo for a 4-0 start.

“We want to carry the enthusiasm and excitement from starting on a good note to the rest of the season,” Linder said.

Players’ understanding of their new positions has been instrumental in the current success, Linder added.

“Things are really starting to come together for us,” Linder said. “People are comfortable in their roles now. They’re settled in, and know what they have to do.”

Contact softball reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].