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KENT -- The sun was shining and the weather just a touch warmer. Whether that had anything to do with the Kent State softball team breaking out of its mini-offensive slump is up for interpretation.
All that mattered on Sunday was that the Golden Flashes came away with an 8-2 win at the Diamond at Dix over Western Michigan to sweep a two-game Mid-American Conference series from the Broncos.
Kent State (21-16-1 overall) now stands 11-5 and second in the MAC East division, just a half game behind front-runner Miami (Ohio) at 10-3. Western Michigan (13-25) slips to 4-8 and fifth in the MAC West.
"We look at sweeps and you have to be able to do that to stay in the conference race," Kent State head coach Karen Linder said. "Everyone had great energy and was determined to get this one today."
Kent State was making just its second appearance of the season this weekend at the Diamond at Dix and things got off to a rocky start. On Friday, Northern Illinois limited the Flashes to just five total hits in two games as it swept the doubleheader, 5-1 and 4-3.
The Golden Flashes only tallied one hit in the opening game of the two-game series with Western Michigan on Sunday, but utilized seven walks and opportunistic base running to rally for two runs in the bottom of the sixth for a 2-1 win.
No such drama was needed today as the Flashes erased an early 2-0 deficit with a seven-run second inning to put the Broncos out of reach. The Flashes collected nine hits, including two doubles, in the win.
Senior center fielder Lauren Grimes went 2 for 4 with two RBI. Freshman third baseman Michele Duffy went 2-for-2 with a run scored and an RBI.
"I'm real happy with what Lauren has done in the cleanup spot for us the past couple games," Linder noted. "She really has stepped up. Michele also had a really good day at the plate for us."
Sophomore left fielder Dani Ramos went 1-for-4 with a double, a run scored and two RBI. Sophomore right fielder Kim Kirkpatrick went 1-for-3 with a double and run scored.
Junior right-hander Lauren McNeil gave way to sophomore right-hander Emma Johnson after allowing a pair of first-inning runs. Johnson shut down Western Michigan the rest of the way, allowing no runs on five hits with seven strikeouts in 623 innings to improve to 16-8.
Johnson also defeated Western Michigan in the series opener on Saturday by allowing just three hits and one earned run over seven innings.
"Emma did a nice job of coming in and stopping (Western Michigan's) momentum," Linder said. "She did a real nice job in both games."