Has everything gone as planned during her collegiate

By Allen Moff Record-Courier sports writer Published:

Has everything gone as planned during her collegiate career? Not by a long shot. Fact is, the ride's been much bumpier than anyone could have ever imagined when the former Field High School pitching phenom made an early commitment to join the Golden Flashes before her senior year in 1994.

Still, Cheney insists she has no regrets. Not a one.

"Playing Division I college softball was a dream of mine ever since I was a kid, so I'm thankful for just getting the opportunity to play," said Cheney, whose Flashes are preparing to take part in the Mid-American Conference Tournament beginning Thursday in Akron. "Playing softball has made me a more disciplined person, and I've learned so much. I've really enjoyed my career, and I can't think of anywhere else I'd have rather played but Kent. I'm certainly not complaining."

Expectations were sky-high for Cheney after she mowed down high school hitters in record-setting fashion for the Falcons. Cheney was a four-time All-State selection and two-time Portage County Player of the Year, and she still holds the state record for career victories with 90.

Casual observers expected Cheney to pick up right where she left off at the collegiate level. But it simply didn't happen.

Cheney started at first base as a freshman for the Flashes, but pitched just 191/3 innings while playing behind MAC Player of the Year Carla Brookbank. Still she was impressive in limited duty, compiling a 1-1 record with a 1.81 ERA.

Cheney's time on the mound increased dramatically her sophomore year, and she put up solid numbers: 10-8, 1.95 ERA in 1182/3 innings. But her junior year was more of a struggle. Cheney wound up 6-16 with a 3.43 ERA in 143 innings pitched although her teammates certainly didn't give her much help, scoring just 33 runs in her 16 losses.

And the roller-coaster ride has continued in '98.

"I've been up and down again," said Cheney. "Sometimes I throw great, but I don't get any offensive support. Other times I throw bad, and the offense scores a bunch of runs. It's just been up and down ... that's pretty much how everybody feels about it."

Cheney currently leads the team in innings pitched (93), having compiled a 7-9 record with a solid 2.18 ERA. And those numbers should be even better according to Kent State coach Karen Linder.

"I don't think her record reflects how well she's pitched," said Linder. "She pitched well early in the season, but we'd end up not giving her run support or making untimely errors behind her."

Lately Cheney, a starter all her life and the lone senior on the Flashes' staff, has been pitching out of the bullpen due to the emergence of freshmen Nicole Karasek and Taylor Fleming. A sudden switch in roles wouldn't sit so well with many seemingly entrenched veterans.

But the ever-humble Cheney is an exception to the rule.

"She's been very positive all year long," said Linder. "She's taken on more of a leadership role. She tries to encourage the freshmen, and she's always ready to come in.

"From a coach's standpoint I don't want to put a freshman in a relief role ... I have a lot more confidence in an upperclassman like Amy. So while she may not be getting as many starts, she still plays a major role on this team."

Cheney relished in the role of closer in a pivotal game against Ohio on April 24.

"Amy came in in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and two outs, and we were ahead by one run," Linder explained. "That's a tough spot to come into in a big game, and she struck out the batter to end it. That was clutch.

"I can picture Amy coming into a similar situation during the MAC Tournament. I don't know if I'll use her as a starter or reliever, but either way she'll play an important part for us in this tournament before all's said and done."

Off the field, the ride's been much smoother for Cheney. She has maintained a grade-point average of over 3.0, was on the Dean's List last semester, and is on pace to graduate in the spring of '99 with a degree in special education.

Cheney plans to put the wide array of experiences she's endured during her playing career to good use in the future.

"I've been doing tons of youth clinics during the summer, working individually with pitchers," she said. "When I become a teacher, I'd definitely like to help coach varsity softball."

But Cheney's own playing career is far from through. She still has an opportunity to achieve the only goal that really matters at this point, one that has thus far eluded her and the Flashes.

"A MAC (championship) ring would sure be nice," said Cheney. "That would be a great way to end it. We have so much talent on this team, and we haven't reached our peak yet. But now's the time."

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