Kent State Sports Report: Softball squad continues to shine against Big Ten teams

By ALLEN MOFF | Staff writer Published:

Kent State's softball team improved to 3-0 against Big Ten teams other than Michigan on Saturday. For the second consecutive day Golden Flashes split a pair of games at the Class Act Federal Credit Union Classic at the University of Louisville's Ulmer Stadium on Saturday. After losing 12-4 in six innings to No. 7 Michigan, the Flashes ended the weekend strong by defeating Wisconsin 5-2.

Kent State (12-9) has played a very challenging schedule to-date and owns three wins against schools from the Big Ten.

"Our offense really picked us up this weekend," said KSU coach Karen Linder. "It was a good win against Wisconsin, considering we played without a few girls. I'm really proud of how our team competed this weekend and throughout the season."

The Flashes are now 0-3 against Michigan this season, but had their best offensive performance in three games against the highly ranked Wolverines. After scoring just one run on six hits over 16 innings in two previous games, the Flashes plated four runs and collected seven hits on Saturday.

Michigan struck early with three first-inning runs, and added four in the third to take a 7-0 lead. Freshman Maddy Grimm hit a solo home run to center, her sixth of the season, in the fourth to put KSU on the board.

Senior Jessacca Gironda had a run-scoring double, and freshman Ronnie Ladines belted a pinch-hit homer for the Flashes.

Senior pitcher Lauren McNeil (2-2) started and allowed six runs on four hits in 21⁄3 innings.

Kent State scored twice in the top of the first inning and never trailed against Wisconsin. Grimm plated the first run with a single, and added a two-run double in the fourth. Dani Ramos chipped in an RBI single.

Junior Emma Johnson (7-4) threw her 10th complete game of the season to pick up the victory, recording a season-high 13 strikeouts and allowing two runs on just four hits.

BASEBALL

Kent State closed weekend action at the College of Charleston Tournament with losses on Saturday and Sunday.

The Flashes slipped to 8-8 on the season with a 3-2 loss to Michigan (8-12-1) on Sunday.

"It was a well-pitched game," said KSU coach Jeff Duncan. "Their starter did a good job and our starter did a good job."

An RBI double by Zarley Zalewski and a run-scoring single by T.J. Sutton gave Kent State a 2-1 lead in the seventh. But Michigan scored two runs in the bottom of the frame to retake the lead, aided by a costly KSU error.

"That was the turning point of the game," said Duncan. "We should have been out of that inning."

Alex Miklos led off the ninth with a double, but the next three Flashes were retired to end the game.

Kent State starting pitcher Brian Clark (Stow) tossed six strong innings, allowing one earned run (3 total) on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts. Clark's own error paved the way for Michigan's two runs, which scored after he left the game. Michael Clark retired the side, but not before allowing the runs on a single and a sacrifice fly.

Miklos was the only player with a multi-hit day for Kent State, going 2-for-4 with a double, while Justin Wagler had a triple.

A lack of timely hitting and costly defensive blunders resulted in an 8-0 loss to Appalachian State (5-14) on Saturday.

Three errors in the late innings allowed Appalachian State to double its run total, while KSU did not score despite piling up nine hits. The Flashes left 10 runners stranded.

Sawyer Polen and Jon Wilson had two singles each for Kent State.

Starting pitcher Nick Jensen-Clagg (0-1) went five innings, allowing four runs on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts.

The Flashes will play their 2014 home opener Wednesday against Youngstown State at 3 p.m. Conference action begins this weekend, as Kent State will host Toledo Friday through Sunday.

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Kent State's Board of Trustees recently named the indoor training facility at Schoonover Baseball Stadium the David and Peggy Edmonds Baseball and Softball Training Facility. The Board's action honors the parents of Kent State alumnus David B. Edmonds, who lettered in baseball and serves on the university's National Athletic Development Council. Edmonds, who is the senior vice president, World Wide Services, with FedEx Services, gave the lead gift of $500,000 that will help fund a state-of-the-art hitting facility at the university's baseball complex.

The Board also named the playing surface within the indoor training facility at Schoonover Baseball Stadium the Tom and Barbara Cole Field in honor of Kent State alumnus Tom Cole, a former KSU baseball player, and his wife, Barbara, whose gift of $100,000 will help the school add a state-of-the-art hitting facility to the university's baseball complex. Tom Cole recently retired as chief administrator for Macy's Inc. in New York.

MEN'S GOLF

Kent State's hopes of defending at the General Hackler Championship fell just short as a late rally by Middle Tennessee State dropped the Flashes into a second-place finish on Tuesday at the TPC of Myrtle Beach.

Senior Corey Conners shot an even-par 72 to remain at even for the tournament and share medalist honors with Andrew Dorn of tournament host Coastal Carolina. Fellow Kent State senior Taylor Pendrith was just one shot back on the individual leaderboard after a closing round of 2-under-par 70.

The Flashes shot a 6-over-par total of 294 in the final round, but still lost by two strokes with a three-round total of 22-over 886 (305-287-294).

"It's a tough loss, but the battle down the stretch is going to pay off later for us," said KSU coach Herb Page. "We were up by one shot, then they were up by one shot, then us again. It was really exciting, and while it was disappointing to finish second, playing under pressure like that will benefit us the rest of the season."

Conners (75-69-72-216) was steady as always in his final round, offsetting a bogey five at No. 4 with a birdie three at No. 10 while posting his even-par round. He was named MAC Golfer of the Week after tying for first.

Pendrith (76-71-70-217), who was medalist last year in Myrtle Beach when Kent State shared the team title with Arkansas, eagled the 547-yard second hole, then cancelled out bogeys at holes 3, 4 and 9 with birdies at 5, 7 and 8 before posting nine pars on the back side.

"Corey Conners had some good looks coming in on 14, 16 and 18, and couldn't get a putt to drop," said Page. "But the good news is he finished first, with Pendrith third. Last year, Pendrith finished first when Conners finished third. So our guys have had some great success on this course." Sophomore Kody Fry battled back from shooting 85-77 on Monday by closing in 1-over-par 73.

WRESTLING

Kent State junior Caleb Marsh was awarded an at-large bid to the 2014 NCAA Championships, giving the Flashes four NCAA qualifiers. Only four at-large bids were available at 174 pounds, but Marsh's wins over several highly ranked opponents throughout a brutal Kent State schedule likely impacted the selection committee's decision.

Marsh is 18-11 on the year, with eight wins against opponents who earned automatic bids to this year's NCAA Championships. He recently placed sixth at the MAC Championships in a bracket that carried five automatic qualifying spots. Ten of his 11 losses have come against automatic qualifiers. He will be making his second trip to the NCAA Championships.

Sophomores Mack McGuire, Michael DePalma and Ian Miller earned automatic bids to the NCAA Championships. Miller (27-4) was seeded fourth at 157 pounds.

GYMNASTICS

Kent State (10-4) finished the regular season with a second-place finish in Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Flashes scored 195.975 points to defeat Centenary (191.000), but fell to the host Panthers (196.125).

Senior Marie Case took first in the all-around with a score of 39.475. She won the vault with a career-best 9.950, and also tied for first on floor (9.925) and beam (9.875).

Jaymi Baxter set a career high with a first-place finish on bars (9.875), while Amiah Mims took second on vault with a season-best score of 9.875.

Kent State will compete at the MAC Championships, hosted by Eastern Michigan, on Saturday.

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Case was named MAC Gymnast of the Week last week after setting a career-high of 39.600 in the all-around, helping the Flashes clinch the outright MAC regular season title with a victory over Bowling Green. Case earned the honor for the fourth time this season.

WOMEN'S GOLF

Kent State finished second at the SunTrust Gator Women's Invitational on Sunday in Gainesville, its fourth top-two finish in six events this season. The Flashes closed with a 12-over 292 and wound up at 27-over 867 for three rounds.

"I was happy with the way we played," said KSU coach Greg Robertson. "We got beat by a really good team today, but played hard."

Natalie Goodson led the way for the Flashes all weekend, finishing with a 4-over 74 to place second overall at 5-over 215.

Three teammates finished in the top 20. Jennifer Ha shot a 6-over 216, including a 73 on Sunday, to tie for fifth. Erin Hawe tied for 13th at 9-over 219, while Wad Phaewchimplee closed with a 2-over 72 to finish in a tie for 17th at 10-over 220. Taylor Kim added a final-round 73.

FOOTBALL

Kent State defensive end Nate Vance (Stow) was one of seven football players awarded with a postgraduate scholarship at the Northeastern Ohio Chapter of the National Football Foundation's 26th Annual Scholar Athlete Awards Banquet on March 4 at LaCentre Banquet Facility in Westlake.

With one year of athletic eligibility remaining, Vance plans to begin graduate school at Kent State in the fall semester.

Originally a walk-on with the Flashes, Vance played in 10 games in his sophomore season of 2012 and earned a starting spot on the defensive line in 2013. His 46 tackles as a junior tied for the most among Kent State defensive linemen, and his 3.5 sacks tied for the most on the team.

Kent State begins spring practices on Tuesday, April 1, and will play its spring game on Saturday, April 26.

TRACK AND FIELD

After Kent State's women's indoor track and field team won its third straight Mid-American Conference title, head coach Bill Lawson and assistant coach Nathan Fanger were honored by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

Lawson was named NCAA Division I Great Lakes Region Women's Coach of the Year for the second straight season, and Fanger was named Women's Assistant Coach of the Year.

Lawson earned the 2014 MAC Women's Coach of the Year award for the fourth time and third straight season. Fanger, in his 12th season on staff for Kent State, helped the Flashes' throwers take first, third and fourth in the shot put at the MAC meet.

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