The Kent State softball team’s series against conference competitor Northern Illinois was split going into the final game of the weekend.
Then freshman pitcher Kylie Ringler threw her first shutout, earning her team its second consecutive Mid-American Conference series win of the season.
“She’s having a great year,” coach Eric Oakley said. “She can go out there and keep us in games. She’s doing everything we’re asking her to do.”
Ringler allowed only four hits total from the Huskies Saturday. This year, she has pitched three complete games and allowed only 16 runs, 11 earned runs and eight walks.
“Considering the experienced pitching we have ahead of her, she’s really stepped up and shown that she can hit spots and give our team a chance to make some plays,” Oakley said.
Kent State had gone 2-1 in a series against Central Michigan, fourth in the MAC at 8-6, April 5 and 6.
The Flashes remain in ninth place at 4-9 in the conference and 13-20 overall. Northern Illinois is one place behind KSU at 5-12. Miami leads the conference at 15-2, and Ohio is second at 11-6.
In the first game of the series Friday, a single from freshman utility player Savannah Wing in the fourth inning started off the Flashes’ first scoring play of the series. Wing ran to second after an out at first base from junior infielder Julia Mazanec, then went home after a hit to center field from senior infielder Chloe Cruz.
NIU scored in the sixth to tie the game.
In the top of the ninth, KSU’s senior outfielder Brooklyn Whitt got on base after a single to center field and a homerun from sophomore catcher Emily Lippe closed out the afternoon 3-1.
KSU had 10 total hits, tying for its second-best batting performance of the season.
Oakley said his team is “heading in the right direction” with improvement at bat.
“Hitting has been something that we struggled with,” Oakley said. “We’re a young team, which is inexperienced from an offensive standpoint, so we’re spending a lot of time talking about our approach at the plate.”
“We do talk about the mental side [of hitting], and from a physical standpoint we work on the mechanical part at practice by trying to get them to trust [their abilities] when they get into situations in a game.”
In Saturday’s first game, Kent State got on the scoreboard in the fifth inning with a double from Whitt, which pushed senior infielder Sabrina Kerschner home. A double to left field from Lippe gave Whitt a run. The score was 2-1 going into the seventh.
Lippe hit her second home run of the series, getting three RBI’s, to bring the score to 5-1. But NIU scored four runs in its final inning to win the match 6-5.
“It was frustrating,” Oakley said. “I told our seniors, ‘look, we’re getting to the point here where we can only lose so many more of these games. You need to bring the team together and talk about it.’ It’s their season, and when you’re letting too many of those games slip away, you start to limit your chances to have the outcome you want.”
KSU ended with eight total hits compared to nine from NIU.
The Flashes came back in the final game of the series to win 3-0 with help from Ringler’s shutout.
Sophomore pitcher Jessica LeBeau had two hits, a single in the first and a double in the sixth, for two RBIs to bring the score to 2-0 in the sixth inning. She scored a run in the sixth after a single from fifth-year utility player Brenna Brownfield to close out the game 3-0.
Kent State totaled eight hits to four from Northern Illinois.
“Credit to Northern Illinois for making a nice comeback, and credit to our team for fighting back to win the series,” Oakley said. “We did a great job to come back and win the third game. I’m proud of them.”
The Flashes play Ohio Wednesday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the Diamond at Dix. Their first game of the series was Tuesday but it was canceled due to inclement weather.
KSU will compete against five other conference teams in its last 13 games of the season. The top four teams qualify for the MAC tournament in May.
“When we play well, we can play with everybody,” Oakley said. “We’re not worrying too much about who we’re playing. We’re just going out there and trying to win the series that we have in front of us.”
“Our goal is to win that first game and let the rest fall into place as it does. With a little more than half the season left, we can still control our fate.”
Isabella Schreck is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]