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By Allen Moff | Staff writer
The No. 17 Kent State gymnastics team captured the 2013 Mid-American Conference regular-season championship on Saturday night, completing a perfect league campaign by scoring 195.275 points to defeat host Eastern Michigan along with Air Force and Alaska-Anchorage.
"Although we're a little disappointed with the score, we are extremely proud of our girls. To go 7-0 in the MAC is no easy feat," said coach Brice Biggin, whose Golden Flashes have now won 11 straight meets. "These girls are working as a team, and they really want this."
Senior Rachel Guida continued her dominance on the bars, winning with a score of 9.875. She also earned a 9.825 on vault, aiding Kent State to a combined 49.100 vault score that fell just short of its season-high (49.200).
"As long as I have been a coach, I don't think I've ever had a team that didn't record a fall on the road," said Biggin. "That's something you don't see often. A lot of times teams will enter a gym on the road and have difficulties in everything from crowd, to equipment, to just a different attitude and it can throw them off, but not these girls. They are some of the hardest-working gymnasts out there, and they have a goal they plan to achieve."
Freshmen Katlin Isaacs and Nicolle Eastman tied for first in the floor exercise with a score of 9.875, while sophomore Whitnee Johnson took first place in the all-around with a 39.050.
Kent State will host a quad-meet featuring Southeast Missouri State, New Hampshire and Cornell on Friday to conclude the regular season.
Kent State shook off its struggles at the plate on Sunday to earn a 5-3 victory over Delaware State in eight innings to conclude a 3-2 weekend at the Winthrop/adidas Invitational in Rock Hill, S.C.
The Golden Flashes (8-10) fell behind once again before rallying for a pair of runs in the sixth inning to tie the game 3-3. Then senior Lauren Balodis and sophomore Kim Kirkpatrick delivered RBI singles in the eighth to give Kent State the victory.
"I'm happy we were able to get another win by coming from behind," said KSU coach Karen Linder. "Our players stayed confident and continued to battle throughout the game."
After Delaware State took the lead with three runs in the second, the Flashes tied it in the sixth on a two-run single by Erika Warren.
The Flashes collected a season-best 12 hits in the win. Sophomore Dani Ramos went 3-for-4 while freshman Shelbi Tilton, senior Lauren Grimes, and Warren had two hits apiece. Warren collected the Flashes' only extra-base hit of the game with a triple in the third inning.
Sophomore Emma Johnson entered the game in the second inning and earned the victory for the Golden Flashes. Johnson (6-6) held the Hornets scoreless and recorded six strikeouts in 6.2 innings of relief work. She did not allow a hit over the final four innings and retired 13 straight batters to end the game.
Kent State opened the weekend with a pair of victories on Friday, defeating Western Illinois 4-3 and North Carolina A&T 9-5.
Kirkpatrick, Ledford and junior Jessacca Gironda accounted for 11 of the Flashes' 18 hits and scored eight of their 13 runs on the day. Johnson tossed a two-hitter against Western Illinois, allowing just two hits with eight strikeouts.
Kirkpatrick ripped a grand slam and a solo homer against North Carolina A&T.
Kent State then struggled to get anything going on offense in dropping both of its games Saturday, falling to No. 24 Georgia 8-1 and to host Winthrop 3-0.
Kent State swept last week's MAC East Division honors, as Johnson was named Pitcher of the Week and Ledford was named Player of the Week.
Johnson went 3-0 to earn the victory in all of the Flashes' wins at the USF Under Armour Invitational. In 17.2 innings, Johnson recorded 22 strikeouts and had a 0.79 ERA.
Ledford finished the weekend with a team-best nine base hits and batted .563.
TRACK & FIELD
The record-setting performance by the Kent State women's track & field at the MAC Championships a week ago has yielded regional awards for two members of the Flashes coaching staff. Head coach Bill Lawson was named NCAA Division I Great Lakes Region Women's Coach of the Year, and Phil Rickaby was named Women's Assistant Coach of the Year by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Lawson was named MAC Women's Coach of the Year after Kent State turned in the most dominant performance in MAC Championships history. The Flashes scored a meet-record 175 points, surpassing the previous mark by 30 points. They won eight events and nearly doubled their closest opponent, winning by a record 81 points.
This is the third time Lawson has been honored as Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year by the USTFCCCA since being named as Director of Track & Field and Cross Country at Kent State eight years ago. Lawson has built the Flashes into one of the elite programs in the conference, as the women have won three of the past four conference indoor titles and six of the past seven titles overall. He has been named MAC Coach of the Year seven times.
Rickaby, in his fifth season on staff, helped the Flashes dominate the jumps at the MAC Championships. The long jump has been one of the strongest events for Kent State as the top three marks in school history have all taken place this season.
Junior outfielder T.J. Sutton was named MAC East Player of the Week last week after hitting .700 in three starts against No. 4 Louisville. He picked up seven hits, scored two runs and hit one double on the weekend.