Kent State Sports Report: Strong start to 2014 season for Golden Flashes softball team

By Allen Moff | Staff writer Published:

Kent State (4-1) opened the 2014 softball season with four straight wins before falling to host Long Beach State (3-2) 9-7 on Sunday at the Mizuno Invitational.

"Overall it was a great weekend," KSU coach Karen Linder said. "I am very excited about or offense. A lot of kids contributed."

The Golden Flashes led 6-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning in the weekend finale, as sophomore Shelbi Tilton and freshman Maddy Grimm each hit their first home run in a Kent State uniform. But the 49ers scored six runs in the fifth frame to take the lead for good.

Junior Emma Johnson (2-1) was the losing pitcher after allowing five runs in relief duty. Senior Lauren McNeil made her first start of the season and allowed one run in two innings.

Kim Kirkpatrick, Tilton and Lauren Kesterson had two hits apiece, while Kirkpatrick recorded her team-leading third double of the season.

Pitchers Ronnie Ladines and Johnson combined to allow just two earned runs as the Flashes defeated George Washington (6-4) and Long Beach State (3-2) on Saturday.

Ladines threw 52⁄3 innings to earn the victory in her collegiate debut, while McNeil retired the final two batters to earn her second save.

Grimm had an RBI single and a two-run triple.

Against the host 49ers, Johnson (2-0) was dominant for the majority of the game. She allowed just two hits, both in the top of the fourth inning. Those two hits, combined with a hit batter and a walk, allowed Long Beach State to score twice and take a 2-1 lead.

Trailing in the bottom of the fifth, Kirkpatrick came through once again with a double that scored Abbey Ledford to tie the game. She then scored the go-ahead run on a successful double-steal with two outs.

Kirkpatrick went 5-for-8 on the day with two doubles, two RBI, three runs scored and a stolen base. Grimm also had a big day for the Flashes, going 3-for-7 and driving in four runs.

Kent State opened the season with a 6-2 win over George Washington, then defeated Santa Clara in Friday's nightcap 4-2.

George Washington scored two runs in the first against ace Johnson, but Ramos eventually put Kent State ahead to stay with a two-run triple in the fourth. Kirkpatrick, Ramos and Shelbi Tilton each had two hits for Kent State, while Ramos drove in three runs.

Johnson (1-0) shook off a tough first inning and dominated the rest of the way for the complete-game victory. She surrendered just one hit over the final six innings and finished with four strikeouts while allowing just one earned run.

An RBI single by Tilton in the first and a run-scoring triple by Kim Morgason in the second gave KSU a 2-0 lead over Santa Clara, and Erika Warren added an RBI single. Kesterson scored two runs in each game and finished the day 2-for-3 at the plate. She also drew three walks and had two stolen bases.

Freshman Janel Hayes recorded the victory in her collegiate debut with Kent State. She allowed just one earned run in five innings, then McNeil pitched the final two innings to earn the save.

GYMNASTICS

Kent State defeated Northern Illinois (2-2, 2-1 MAC) 195.675-193.375 in the Flip for the Cure meet Friday in the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center.

The No. 25 Golden Flashes (6-1, 3-0) finished with team scores of 48.825 on the vault, 48.825 on the bars, 48.900 on the beam and 49.125 on the floor.

Kent State took first in each event. Amiah Mims earned two first-place finishes with personal bests in the vault (9.850) and the floor exercise (9.900). Marie Case tied Mims on the vault, and took first on the balance beam with a 9.850. Jaymi Baxter won the uneven bars with a score of 9.850, followed by teammate Rebecca Osmer (9.825).

Case and Jordan Hardison tied for second on the floor exercise with a score of 9.850, as Case finished with a 39.300 in the all-around.

WOMEN'S SOCCER

Kent State signed seven newcomers for the upcoming 2014 season: Kristen Brots, Mackenzie Lesnick, Alejandra Mathern, Hayden Pascoe, Katelyn Kingsbury, Adrianna Currie and Karli Paracca.

Brots, a center midfielder from Naperville, Ill., totalled 29 goals and 22 assists in her first three seasons at Waubonsie Valley High School. Brots was a member of the ODP Illinois State team (2009-2011) and captained Team Chicago SANTOS, which participated in the MRL Premier Division and captured CASL & Disney tournament championships.

Currie, a center back from St. Marguerite d'youville Secondary in Brampton, Ontario, helped her high school team to a third-place finish in Ontario. In club soccer she captained Brams United Angels and helped guide her team to an Ontario Cup Championship and a national final in 2010.

Kingsbury, a goalkeeper from Massillon Jackson High School, ended her prep career with a 25-10-4 record and a 0.82 goals-against average. She helped her squad capture three Federal League championships (2010, 2011, 2012) and win three district titles. With the Internationals, Kingsbury helped the squad to a 2012 U.S. Club National Championship.

Lesnick, a defender from Hawken School in Kirtland, guided her team to a state-runner up finish with a 16-1-6 record as a senior. She tallied seven goals and six assists. A recipient of the Hawken Old Board Award for her leadership, Lesnick also earned team MVP honors and the Best Defensive Player award during her career.

Mathern, a forward from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, helped her squad to two district finals. She was selected to the District All-Star team her senior year and earned the team's Coaches' Award during her sophomore year.

Paracca, a forward from Valencia, Pa., led Mars High School to four sectional championships, three WPIAL Championships and an AA PIAA State Championship in 2011. She combined for 85 goals in her career, including a stellar junior year in which she tallied 38 goals and 27 assists.

Pascoe, a forward from Vernon, Pa., led Belle Vernon Area High School to a 60-18-4 record and a 2012 Section 4 Championship. She combined for 102 goals and 63 assists, earned All-Section honors all four-years and was a three-time All-WPIAL honoree. In her senior season, Pascoe earned All-State honors after posting 28 goals and 18 assists. During her club soccer career she helped Century United win four state championships.

MEN'S GOLF

Kent State seniors Corey Conners and Taylor Pendrith are among 30 collegiate golfers named to the 2014 Ben Hogan Award Watch List, announced by the Colonial Country Club, the Friends of Golf and the Golf Coaches Association of America.

The prestigious Ben Hogan Award is presented annually to the top men's NCAA Division I, II or III, NAIA or NJCAA college golfer, taking into account all collegiate and amateur competitions during the past 12-month period. The Ben Hogan Award Selection Committee, which votes during each stage of the process, is comprised of leaders in professional, amateur and collegiate golf.

"This is a great honor for Corey and Taylor," said KSU coach Herb Page. "It is also a great honor for Kent State to have not just one, but two players identified among the top 30 players in the country. It is validation of what Corey and Taylor are doing, and it is validation of where our program is right now. I couldn't be more pleased.

"These young men put in the time. They work hard and they are very coachable. And that effort is part of what makes it so appropriate to have their names mentioned for an award that bares the name of Ben Hogan. One of Ben Hogan's most famous quotes was about digging it out of the dirt. Well, these two young men are blue-collar diggers."

Since the award was first issued in 1990, the list of winners includes: D.J. Trahan (Clemson, 2002), Ricky Barnes (Arizona, 2003), Hunter Mahan (Oklahoma State, 2003), Bill Haas (Wake Forest, 2004), Ryan Moore (UNLV, 2005), Matt Every (Florida, 2006), Chris Kirk (Georgia, 2007), Rickie Fowler (Oklahoma State, 2008), Kyle Stanley (Clemson, 2009), Nick Taylor (Washington, 2010), Peter Uihlein (Oklahoma State, 2011), Patrick Cantlay (UCLA, 2012) and Chris Williams (Washington, 2013).

Conners and Pendrith resume their senior seasons March 3-4, when the Flashes compete at the Davidson College Invitational.

TRACK AND FIELD

Kyle Tywon of Kent State won the men's high jump, while Kye Schlumbohm and Morgan Allen swept the pole vault at the Akron Invitational last weekend.

Tywon cleared 6-4.75, while Schlumbohm won the men's pole vault (15-3.5) and Allen captured the women's pole vault (11-6.5).

William Barnes competed at the University of Notre Dame's Meyo Invitational and took first in the 60-meter hurdles in 7.87, the top time in the MAC this season.

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Kent State junior Jackie Leppelmeier was named MAC Women's Field Athlete of the Week.

Leppelmeier broke the Kent State women's indoor record in the weight throw with a mark of 69-4.25 at the Elite Throws Competition at the Findlay Open on Jan. 31. The distance ranks second in the MAC and fifth in the nation.

WRESTLING

Six individual wins gave the Flashes a team tiebreaker point and a 19-18 victory over host Northern Illinois on Saturday. Each team won an overtime match, and each side earned one-point victories in regulation.

The Flashes won the first three matches from 125 to 141 pounds, and put together three straight decision victories from 165 to 184. However, back-to back pins by the Huskies at 149 and 157 kept the dual tight.

Sophomore Alfredo Gray picked an opportune time to claim his first career MAC dual victory, a 3-2 decision over Nick Harrison. Gray's first-period takedown proved to be pivotal in both his match and the dual. The Flashes were just 2-15 in dual meets at 125 and 0-5 in the MAC heading into Saturday.

Sophomore Mack McGuire and junior Tyler Small kept things rolling with 13-9 and 9-6 decisions, respectively.

A pair of first-period pins put the Huskies on top 12-9 after five matches. Sophomore Tyler Buckwalter tied the team score at 12-12, as his takedown in sudden victory gave him an 8-6 win.

Junior Caleb Marsh was the most dominant of the Flashes throughout his match in a 7-2 win over Billy Chancey.

Sophomore Sam Wheeler held a 5-4 lead in the third period before pulling away with a pair of takedowns in a 10-5 decision.

NIU ended its Senior Day with back-to-back victories at 197 and heavyweight, forcing the tiebreaker rules to come into effect.

STAFF

Andrew Foster has been named Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities & Operations at Kent State after spending the past 11⁄2 years at Rice University in Houston.

"We are very pleased that Andrew has joined our staff," said KSU Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen. "His wealth of experience, along with his facility management and personnel skills, will be a tremendous asset to our operation as we continue to expand and upgrade our facilities."

Foster will oversee all of Kent State's athletic facilities, direct all event management and facility rentals. Foster will also be responsible for evaluating, developing and managing policies and procedures related to the operation of athletic facilities.

As the facilities/event management coordinator at Rice University since May 2012, Foster was responsible for the facility and event management for the baseball, women's soccer and women's swimming teams.

"I look forward to joining the Kent State athletic facilities and operations staff," said Foster. "I was very impressed with the people I met, the facilities, and the future plans for the facilities. I am excited to work with all the staff at the University in maintaining and improving the facilities for our student-athletes and our fans to enjoy."

Prior to his stint at Rice, Foster was the facilities/event operations graduate assistant at Marshall University and worked at Bowling Green State University as a facility operations intern. He earned a bachelor's degree in sports management from Bowling Green State University and his master's in sports administration from Marshall University.

COMMUNITY

Student-athletes from nearly every Kent State sports team recently joined Willyard Elementary School with its Moving with the Flashes program.

The student-athletes led different stations that taught kids techniques and skills for various sports, and also provided tips on the importance of being fit.

"They are doing such a good job interacting with the kids," Physical Education instructor Courtney Rutan said of the Kent State participants. "All the kids are having such a fun time and learning some awesome physical activity skills that they'll be able to take with them. It's just been an awesome day."

Willyard Elementary's students weren't the only ones that took something positive away from the day.

"It's very humbling giving back to the community," said Clay Miller, a member of the Kent State football team.

"The smiles and laughter on all the kids' faces is something that you can't replace," added teammate Anthony Melchiori, an Aurora native.

AROUND THE MAC

Justin Drummond, the Toledo men's basketball team's leading scorer, was suspended for one game after being charged with DUI Saturday night.

Drummond, a 6-foot-4 junior swingman, averages 14.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for the MAC West Division-leading Rockets (20-3, 8-2 MAC). They will host Ohio (17-6, 7-3) on Wednesday.

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