ROCK HILL, S.C.--The Kent State softball team won a pair of games Friday at the Winthrop/adidas Invitational to give the team four consecutive wins. The Golden Flashes (7-8) defeated Western Illinois, 4-3, before getting the best of North Carolina A&T in the nightcap, 9-5.
The Golden Flashes had one of their best offensive performances to-date and scored a total of 14 runs, single-day best for the season. Kim Kirkpatrick, Abbey Ledford, and Jessacca Gironda accounted for 11 of the Flashes' 18 hits and scored eight of their 13 runs on the day.
After two runs by Western Illinois in the top of the third, the Golden Flashes responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Dani Ramos was hit by a pitch to start the rally. Ramos advanced to third on a single by Ledford. Shelbi Tilton drew a walk to load the bases for Lauren Grimes. Grimes hit the ball to the second baseman, who botched the ball. Ramos and Ledford both were able to score on the play, but Grimes was retired attempting to advance to second.
Kent State added two more runs in the next inning. A leadoff walk an throwing error on a sac bunt put Gironda on third. Kirkpatrick delivered a clutch two-out double to bring the go-ahead run home. An illegal pitch moved Kirkpatrick to third and she scored on a single from Ramos.
Sophomore Emma Johnson was spectacular once again on the mound, recording a two-hitter in her second straight start. Johnson (5-4) tallied eight punch-outs and allowed just one earned run in the complete game victory.
The Flashes found themselves down in the second game of the day against North Carolina A&T following a two-run homer by the Aggies in the top of the second inning. Once again, Kent State responded immediately in the bottom half of the inning. The first three batters reached safely and Kirkpatrick blasted a grand slam to put the Flashes ahead for good.
The Aggies cut the Kent State lead to 4-3 in the top of the fourth, but Kirkpatrick delivered yet another big hit with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the inning.
Another North Carolina A&T run in the top of the sixth made it a one-run game once again, but the Flashes had one final response. Two walks and a bunt single loaded the bases with one out. Ariele Patterson scampered home on a wild pitch and Ledford brought the other two runners home with a double. An RBI single by Grimes brought in the final insurance run for the Flashes.
Kent State collected 11 hits for the game, led by three apiece from Kirkpatrick and Gironda. It was the first multi-home run game of her career for Kirkpatrick, who also scored three times.
Senior Lauren McNeil went 6.1 innings to earn the victory for the Golden Flashes. McNeil (2-4) recorded 10 strikeouts and just one walk for the game.
Kirkpatrick finished the day 4-for-7 from her leadoff spot in the lineup. She had six RBI and a team-high 11 total bases to slug 1.571 in the two games. Ledford also went 4-for-7 and drove in a pair of runs.
Kent State returns today to take on No. 24 Georgia at 1 p.m. and host Winthrop at 4 p.m.