Kent State Sports Report: Flashes softball team nearly upsets pair of top-six opponents

By Allen Moff | Staff writer Published:

The Kent State softball team (6-4) nearly knocked off two teams ranked among the top six in the country in one day at the Florida Atlantic Invitational.

Pitchers Emma Johnson and Ronnie Ladines combined for 15 2/3 scoreless innings before allowing a run as the Golden Flashes defeated No. 6 Kentucky (12-1) 3-0 Saturday morning, then took No. 5 Michigan nine innings before falling 1-0.

"I am extremely proud of the entire team and how they responded to the challenge of playing two ranked opponents," KSU coach Karen Linder said. "Emma and Ronnie had outstanding performances on the mound facing two excellent hitting teams, and Erika Warren did an exceptional job behind the plate. It can be overlooked how important she is to our team, but she called two great games."

Johnson (4-2) threw a one-hit shutout against the previously unbeaten Wildcats. The 2013 Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year fanned 10 batters while allowing just three walks.

Junior Kim Kirkpatrick led both the first and third innings off with singles, and scored both times on RBI singles by sophomore Shelbi Tilton.

In just the second start of her collegiate career, Ladines (1-1) found herself in a pitcher's duel with Michigan's Sara Driesenga, a member of the USA Softball National Player of the Year Watch List. Ladines allowed just one unearned run on seven hits and recorded eight strikeouts.

"Our bench focus and enthusiasm was awesome, and it made a real difference in how we competed," Linder said.

Kent State defeated Pittsburgh 6-1 in its final game at the Florida Atlantic Invitational on Sunday.

Johnson was dominant again, allowing just three hits while striking out nine.

Freshman Maddy Grimm put the Flashes in control in the third, ripping a bases-loaded triple. Michele Duffy drove in two more with a single in the sixth, while Kirkpatrick added her first home run in the seventh inning.

Kent State dropped its first two games at the Florida Atlantic Invitational on Friday, falling 1-0 to Pittsburgh and 7-1 to Michigan.

Senior pitcher Lauren McNeil was the hard-luck loser against Pitt, allowing just one run on six hits with no walks in a complete-game effort.

Johnson went five innings against the Wolverines, coughing up four runs (2 earned) on seven hits with three strikeouts.

GYMNASTICS

No. 25 Kent State defeated host Ball State 195.700-193.950 on Friday to stay perfect in the MAC.

The Flashes (8-1, 5-0 MAC) took first in all four events as they made it 24 straight wins over the Cardinals (3-8, 0-5 MAC). They set season-highs with a total score of 195.700, on vault (49.100) and on floor (49.175).

Senior Marie Case tied for first on bars with a 9.800, while Rebecca Osmer was third (9.750).

Kent State swept the vault, as Chelsea Drooger took first (9.875) followed by Case (9.850) and Amiah Mims (9.825).

Case won floor with a 9.900, while Samantha Gordon tied for third with a career-high 9.850.

Case also won beam with a 9.850, and took the all-around with a total score of 39.400.

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Case was named MAC Gymnast of the Week last week after leading her team to an upset victory at No. 19 Central Michigan last week.

Case set career highs in the all-around (39.475) and on the uneven bars (9.875), and tied her balance beam personal best with a 9.925. This is the second time this season and 11th time in her career that Case has been named MAC Gymnast of the Week.

BASEBALL

Freshmen Eric Lauer and Andy Raven pitched no-hit ball through seven innings as Kent State completed a perfect weekend at the Coca-Cola Classic with an 11-1 victory over Coppin State (0-4) Sunday in Rock Hill, SC.

Lauer (2-0) earned the win as the starter, his second victory in as many appearances, throwing five shutout innings with one walk and three strikeouts. Ravel followed him with two innings of relief, allowing one run with one walk and two strikeouts.

"Lauer had another nice outing," said KSU coach Jeff Duncan. "His fastball was good all day along. Ravel threw two innings and looked good. He commanded two pitches for a strike, fastball and slider."

Zarley Zalewski had a big day at the plate, finishing 4-for-5 with an RBI. Jon Wilson was the only other KSU batter with a multiple-hit day, going 2-for-5 with the game's only extra-base hit (double).

Kent State defeated host Winthrop (3-3) 9-4 in 15 innings on Saturday.

Winthrop scored three in the third off KSU starter Nick Jensen-Clagg to take a 3-1 lead, but the Flashes answered with three in the sixth as Alex Miklos ripped an RBI double and Zalewski had a run-scoring single.

Winthrop scored a run in the ninth to tie it, but former Streetsboro High School star Dan Kopcak kept the game tied by pitching four scoreless innings of relieve for Kent State. He wound up earning the win, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out four.

Miklos finished the day going 3-for-6 with three doubles. Tommy Monnot also had a three-hit day in eight at-bats, while Sawyer Polen, Justin Wagler, Zalewski and Jacob Neuschaefer each had two hits.

The Flashes won twice on Friday, blanking Coppin State 5-0 and defeating Winthrop 8-5.

John Birkbeck picked up his first win of the season against Coppin State, allowing three hits and a walk in five innings with five strikeouts. John Fasola earned the save, giving up just one hit in four innings of relief with five punch-outs.

The Flashes jumped out to an early 5-0 lead against Winthrop, but the hosts rallied to tie it with four runs in the fifth. Kent State recaptured the lead with an unearned run in the sixth, then pulled away.

Former Stow High School star Brian Clark (1-1) earned his first win of the season, going five innings and surrendering six hits, three earned runs and one walk with four strikeouts. Eric Dorsch pitched the final two innings to nab the save, striking out two.

On the day, Cody Koch led offensively with five hits in eight at-bats, including a double. Neuschaefer went 3-for-5 and Miklos hit an even .500 in eight at-bats. Wagler stole four bases and led the team with three RBI.

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Zalewski and Lauer were selected as MAC East Player and Pitcher of the Week, respectively, for their performances on opening weekend at Arizona. Zalewski was also named College Sports Madness Mid-American Baseball Player of the Week.

Zalewski picked up two hits in all three games, including two for extra bases. He was a huge part of KSU's 14-5 win, leading the team with four RBI. He finished the series hitting .545 with an .818 slugging percentage, driving in five runs.

Lauer lived up to his billing as Baseball America's No. 14 Freshman Prospect in the country against Arizona. The lefty came on in relief to throw 2.2 innings, and earned his first collegiate win.

WRESTLING

Sophomore Ian Miller and junior Caleb Marsh each went 2-0 Friday night, but Kent State dropped duals against No. 9 Missouri (24-9) and No. 13 Edinboro (27-9) at the M.A.C. Center.

Marsh improved to 5-0 over a six-day span. In a 2-0 win in his opener, Marsh rode Missouri's Mikey England for the entire second period and earned an escape in the third. Marsh then scored a pair of takedowns in a 6-1 victory over Edinboro's Patrick Jennings, improving to 16-6 in dual meets.

Miller defeated a pair of Top 20 opponents, beginning with a 3-2 decision over Joey Lavallee. Miller was more dominant in a 10-4 win over Edinboro's Johnny Greishheimer. Ranked No. 5 in multiple polls, Miller improved to 24-4 on the year.

"It's the end of the regular season and now it's postseason," KSU coach Jim Andrassy said. "Everybody's 0-0 and has the chance to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. It's been important for our young guys to see what the best teams in the country are like. Our guys are never going to face anyone tougher than they already have."

Kent State will take two weeks off from competition before hosting 2014 MAC Championships March 8-9.

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Kent State bowed out of the NWCA National Duals Monday with a 24-13 setback against No. 18 Illinois inside St. John Arena.

Marsh improved to 3-0 on the weekend with a 9-6 victory over No. 25 Tony Dallago. The Flashes also got wins from junior Tyler Small, Miller and Cole Baxter. Miller gave Kent State its only bonus points with a 15-5 major decision.

TRACK AND FIELD

William Barnes set the Kent State Field House record at the Kent State Tune Up on Saturday. He ran a 7.83 to win the 60-meter hurdles, the third-best time in KSU history.

Barnes also took first in the 200 meters (21.43).

Michael King tied the KSU indoor record while winning the shot put with a heave of 60-7.25. Cody Jones took first in the high jump (6-9.5), followed by teammate Tyler Jones (6-7.5).

Wayne Gordon flew to first place in the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.79, while Marteze Roper finished first in the 800 (1:52.60) and Danny Young won the 300-meter hurdles (38.78).

Matthias Tayala contributed a first-place effort in the weight throw (68-9.75), Xavier Braxton was first in the long jump (22-0.25), and KSU swept the triple jump behind champion Jailyn Twitty (48-3.5).

On the women's side, Dior Delophont took home first place in the women's high jump with a leap of 6-0.75.

Ann Marie Duffus won the 60 meters in 7.57, while Lauren Burnett captured the 800 (2:12.42) and Danniel Thomas claimed the shot put (55-8.25).

The Flashes return to the Field House next weekend, when they host the 2014 Mid-American Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships starting Friday at 10 a.m.

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Jesse Oxley, Barnes and Twitty each took first in their respective events at the Fred Wilt Invitational on Feb. 15 at Purdue University.

Oxley took first in the pole vault by clearing 16-9.25); Twitty won the men's triple jump with a leap of 48-10); and Barnes finished in first in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.88. He added a second-place effort in the 200 meters (21.67).

Ann Marie Duffus and Roseanne Erickson also won events for the KSU women at the Fred Wilt Invitational.

Duffus started off with a first place in the long jump (19- 9), then followed that up by winning the 60-meter hurdles (8.32).

Erickson captured the 200 meters in 24.79.

WOMEN'S GOLF

Kent State wrapped up the Lady Puerto Rico Classic with a round of 313 on Tuesday, finishing the event in 12th place with an overall score of 50-over-par 914.

Josee Doyon had the best final round, shooting a 4-over 76, followed by Wad Phaewchimplee (77).

Individually, newcomer Phaewchimplee finished in a tie for 30th place with a total of 226. Jennifer Ha tied for 41st at 228, dropping from 15th after a final-round 82.

The Flashes will return to action March 2-4 at the Kiawah Island Invitational in South Carolina.

FIELD HOCKEY

Head coach Kathleen Wiler announced the signing of seven student-athletes: Ines Delpech (Tandil, Argentina), Jamie Fries (Fleetwood, Pa.), Maggie Fries (Fleetwood, Pa.), Mackenzie Mlkvy (Berlin, N.J.), Jessica Nesbitt (Hamilton, New Zealand), Shannon Talbot (North Wales, Pa.) and Eilidh Thomson (Edinburgh, Scotland).

Delpech (midfielder) played for her city and region teams, winning multiple championships while being named the best player in her division for four straight years.

Fries helped Oley Valley High School to the state semifinals in 2012 and the state quarterfinals in 2013. As a senior she was named Second Team All-State. Twin sister Maggie was an All-Division selection as a senior at Oley Valley.

Mlkvy played for Eastern Camden County Regional High School, where she contributed to four state championships, helping maintain 15 consecutive years of state titles for the school. She finished her career with 28 goals and 35 assists, and was an All-State selection as a senior.

Nesbitt joins the Flashes after a Waikato A Grade championship, Midlands Grade 1 championship and a 3rd place finish at the national tournament in 2013 at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls. In her final year she was the top goal scorer (14).

Talbot comes to Kent State after being a standout at North Penn High School, where she was named First Team All-State after her senior year. The midfielder finished her career with 24 goals and 17 assists.

Thomson played for George Watsons College, winning the Scottish Schools Cup in 2012 and 2013. She also made the East of Scotland District Squad both those years.

Email: amoff@recordpub.com

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