Kent State softball team suffers tough loss to national power Kentucky

By Allen Moff | Staff Writer Published:

Kent State junior pitcher Emma Johnson proved that her one-hit shutout of No. 10 Kentucky earlier this season was not a fluke, but a two-out error in the bottom of the fifth inning allowed the Wildcats to complete a 4-2 come-from-behind victory in Sunday's finale at the Kentucky Tournament.

The Golden Flashes (14-12) finished the event 2-3.

"This is a tough loss for us," said KSU coach Karen Linder said. "Emma pitched a good game today. We battled against a really good team but have to do a better job of maintaining the lead late in games. I think this weekend should help prepare us for MAC play."

Kent State handed the Wildcats their first loss of the season with a 3-0 victory on Feb. 22, but Kentucky defeated the Flashes twice over the weekend.

Just like in its victory a month ago, Kent State scored two runs in the first inning. This time, it was a two-run blast over the centerfield fence by freshman Maddy Grimm that gave the Flashes an early lead.

Johnson was in a rhythm to start the game, recording four strikeouts through two innings. She kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard until there were two outs in the fifth.

Kentucky's Christian Stokes led off with a single and advanced to second on a sac bunt. Sylver Samuel was also retired on a sac bunt, but aggressive base-running by the Wildcats was rewarded as Stokes was able to beat the tag at the plate after being sent home on the play.

A fielding error on the next batter allowed the inning to continue, and Kentucky took advantage. Lauren Cumbess doubled to put the go-ahead run in scoring position, and Emily Gaines brought both runners home with a single to right field. Nikki Sagermann added a triple to score one more later in the inning.

Johnson falls to 7-6 on the season with the loss. She allowed just one earned run on six hits and struck out four batters.

The Flashes (14-11) opened day two with a dominant 7-0 win over Fairfield, then recovered from a bad first inning to defeat Saint Francis (Pa.) 8-3 on Saturday.

Senior Lauren McNeil (3-2) threw one of the best games of her Kent State career in shutting out Fairfield to start the day. She recorded a season-high six strikeouts and allowed only three hits in her second complete game of the season.

Junior Kim Kirkpatrick's two-out RBI single gave the Flashes a 1-0 lead in the second. They added two runs in the third, then broke it open with a four-run seventh ignited by a pair of pinch hitters. Senior Kim Morgason ripped a two-run double, then junior Ariele Patterson tacked on two more tallies with her first home run of the season.

Kent State fell behind 3-0 before recording an out in the top of the first inning against St. Francis, but freshman hurler Ronnie Ladines (3-3) did not allow a run the rest of the way and wound up throwing her third complete game of the season. She matched her career-high with eight strikeouts while walking just one batter.

A four-run third gave KSU the lead. The first three batters of the inning reached to load the bases for Grimm, who doubled down the left-field line to score two. Sophomore Shelbi Tilton followed with an RBI single up the middle, and Grimm later scored on a sac fly by Patterson.

"I am so proud of how we came back in the second game," Linder said. "We had key leadoff hits in the second and third innings that led to scoring opportunities."

Kent State added two in the fifth on a single by Patterson that scored Grimm and a triple by sophomore Lauren Kesterson that plated Patterson. Grimm added a sac fly in the sixth.

Nine Flashes combined for 20 hits in the two games. Seven players had more than one hit, six had an extra-base hit and six had an RBI. Grimm led the way by going 4-for-7 with two doubles, four RBI and four runs scored. Patterson made the most of her three at-bats with two hits and four RBI, while Tilton and Kirkpatrick added three hits each.

Kent State played well for 12 innings on Friday, but allowed opponents to outscore them 12-0 in the other two innings and lost both games -- 6-2 to Kansas and 9-2 to No. 10 Kentucky.

Grimm gave the Flashes a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with a two-out home run to left field, and she scored a run in the fourth to give her team a 2-1 lead. But Kansas scored five times in the top of the seventh inning to take command.

Johnson went 6.1 innings and was two outs from her eighth victory of the season before getting into trouble in the seventh. She allowed six runs (5 earned) on seven hits with six strikeouts.

Grimm hit her eighth blast of the season to give the Flashes a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth against the Wildcats. Junior Kim Kirkpatrick added a home run in the sixth inning, her third of the season.

But Kentucky took control of the game with a seven-run fifth inning that included a grand slam by Gaines.

Ladines was terrific in the pitcher's circle over the first four innings before getting into trouble in the fifth. She went 4.1 innings and allowed five runs on seven hits with two strikeouts.

Kent State will travel 25 miles south to play a doubleheader against Eastern Kentucky at 2 p.m. on Tuesday before returning to the Diamond at Dix for the opening weekend of Mid-American Conference play Friday through Sunday.

Grimm was named Mid-American Conference East Division Player of the Week for the second time this season last week. She continued a great start to her collegiate career by going 6-for-11 at the plate with three doubles, two home runs and six RBI at the Class Act Federal Credit Union Classic in Louisville, Ky.

For the year, Grimm is batting .354 with nine home runs and 32 RBI. Kent State's record for RBI in a season is 48 and for homers in a year is 13. Grimm also sports a slugging percentage of .810 and an on-base percentage of .441.

WOMEN'S GOLF

Natalie Goodson has been named MAC Women's Golfer of the Week after a career-best second-place finish at the SunTrust Gator Women's Invitational on March 16. The Hudson native shot two 74s and a tournament-low 67 on the second day, carding nine birdies in three rounds. Over half of the squads in the 14-team field were ranked among the nation's top 50.

FIELD HOCKEY

Kent State's Abbie Carrico earned 2013 Gladiator by SGI/NFHCA Division I Scholars of Distinction for achieving a cumulative grade-point average of 3.90 or higher through the first semester of the 2013-14 academic year.

The junior captain started the first 14 games of the season before being sidelined with an injury, and collected six assists.

Kent State was named a 2013 Gladiator by SGI/NFHCA Division I National Academic Team, while 14 Flashes were named to the 2013 Gladiator by SGI/NFHCA Division I National Academic Squad. The award recognizes teams and individuals with a 3.0 grade-point average or higher.

Kent State's 14 honorees include three four-year winners: Sabrina Binder, Melanie Kahn and Rebecca Lee.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Kent State's incoming freshman class, ranked third in the MAC by Collegiate Girls Scouting Report, finished a combined 108-17 during the 2013-14 season. Individually, three of the five recruits -- all from Ohio -- reached the 1,000-point threshold in their high school careers, four were All-State selections and two were McDonald's All-American nominees.

Jordan Korinek from St. Vincent St. Mary's finished her career with 1,157 points and led her team to the Division II Final Four after averaging 16.8 points and nine rebounds per game as a senior. 

Madison Ridout finished third on Jackson High School's all-time scoring list with 1,326 career points. She was named the conference and district player of the year for the second straight season, and led her team in scoring (17.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg).

Tyra James finished her career with 1,124 points en route to earning a McDonald's All-American nomination. She averaged 19.5 points in her final season at Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati.

Lydia Poe missed 11 games in the middle of her senior season due to injury, but still managed to score 944 points and grab 731 rebounds in her career at Jackson High School. She averaged 16.8 points and 11.7 rebounds as a senior.

Rounding out the incoming freshman class, Naddiyah Cross also overcame an injury this season and went on to guide Centerville High School to a regional semifinal appearance.

GYMNASTICS

Kent State senior Marie Case was named First Team All-MAC for the second straight season. Case has been named the MAC Gymnast of the Week four times this season and has recorded her career-best in four of five events -- vault (9.950), bars (9.925), floor (9.975) and all-around (39.600).

FOOTBALL

The results from testing during Kent State's Pro Day last Thursday were not available until Friday. Defensive back Fabrice Pratt had the fastest time in the 40, an impressive 4.44. Fellow defensive back Darius Polk ran the 40 in 4.52 and had a vertical jump of 36.5, while defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix -- who will likely play linebacker or fullback at the next level -- ran a 4.71 in the 40 at 248 pounds.

ON THE SPOT

Anyone who would like to appear in the next episode of 'On the Spot,' a video series featuring Kent State sports fans and yours truly discussing Flashes athletics, should email amoff@recordpub.com. The show is filmed at the Record-Courier office in Kent on Thursday mornings.

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