Kent State senior ace Ronnie Ladines lost a pitcher's duel with Ohio's Savannah Jo Dorsey in the winner's bracket final of the Mid-American Conference Softball Tournament on Friday.
Ladines carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning, but gave up two runs on four hits in that frame that proved to be the difference as the No. 2 seed Bobcats (39-14) defeated the No. 4 seed Golden Flashes (29-26) 2-0 at Firestone Stadium in Akron.
The Flashes will meet No. 3 seed Northern Illinois (33-20) in an elimination game today at 10:30 a.m.
Ladines (17-14) lost for the first time in 10 starts despite throwing a complete-game six-hitter, and also ripped a pair of doubles at the plate.
Kent State stranded four runners in scoring position in the first four innings against Dorsey (23-6), who then settled in and finished off a six-hit shutout with nine strikeouts.
"We had our opportunities and didn't take advantage of them early," said KSU coach Eric Oakley. "It's disappointing because we only gave up two runs and have been scoring more than that. We need to have a better approach at the plate and put the ball in play with runners in scoring position. But obviously we were going against a very good pitcher, and Savannah Jo deserves credit for her performance."
A double high off the right-centerfield fence by Kent State senior Maddy Grimm put runners on second and third with one out in the first inning, but Dorsey escaped the jam with a groundout and a strikeout.
Ladines, who homered in the second inning of the Flashes' first two MAC Tournament contests, doubled in her first at-bat on Friday. She was replaced by a pinch runner, who was left stranded at third after Dorsey recorded back-to-back punch-outs to end the frame.
Ladines then doubled with two outs in the fourth and moved to third on a passed ball, but advanced no further.
Grimm joined Ladines with two hits for the Flashes.
The winner of the Kent State-Northern Illinois game then must defeat the Bobcats twice today to claim the MAC tourney crown.
"There's really no pressure (today), no expectations for anyone to win three games," said Oakley. "We just need to settle in and enjoy playing softball."
TRACK AND FIELD
Kent State redshirt freshman TJ Lawson accumulated a personal-best 7,640 points to earn the decathlon title at the 2017 Mid-American Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which continued Friday afternoon at the Kanley Track & Field Complex in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Lawson, a former Stow High School star, took first in the 110-meter hurdles (personal-best 14.87) and the javelin on Friday, adding to his four decathlon victories from Thursday — when he set personal bests in the 100 meters (10.96), high jump (2.05 meters), and shot put (14.13 meters).
Golden Flashes senior Reggie Jagers III captured the hammer throw title on Thursday, claiming his third career MAC title and first in the hammer with a career-best toss of 217-3 that was nearly 14 feet ahead of the rest of the field. The Flashes have now captured a conference championship in a throwing event for 16 consecutive years.
Estes, a senior, captured her first career MAC title in the pole vault by clearing 13-6.5.
Thomas, a redshirt senior, earned her eighth career MAC title with a meet-record toss of 58-1.5 that she recorded on her first attempt.
Former Rootstown High School star David Paliscak earned eight points and a silver medal for the Flashes Friday by finishing second in the shot put with an outdoor career-best mark of 58-0.75.
Freshman Christian Champen collected a runner-up finish in the pole vault on Thursday by clearing 16-8.75,
Ryan Looser scored a personal-record 6,829 points to take fourth in the decathlon. Walter Petzel also recorded an outdoor best in the shot put, throwing 53-11.5 to take fourth place.
Derek Adams, the Kent State football team's starting punter, added a fourth-place finish in the javelin (190-8).
Former Field High School standout Clark Bookman finished ninth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9:28.61.
After two days, Kent State's men are third with 55 points. Akron leads with 67 points, followed by Eastern Michigan (63).
Cayla Carey had a standout performance for Kent State's women's team on Friday, finishing runner-up in the long jump with a career-best mark of 20-2.75 — the third-best distance in KSU history.
Gabrielle Figueroa finished third in the hammer throw at 188-6.75.
The Flashes women are second with 49.5 points, just behind Akron with 50.5 points.
The final day of competition is set for today in Kalamazoo.
Patrick Dayton retired the final two batters of the seventh then tossed a scoreless eighth, striking out two. Robert Zeigler then threw a scoreless ninth to earn his fourth save.
Offensively, Kent State did its damage in the sixth. Luke Burch reached on an error and stole second, then Mason Mamarella ripped an RBI triple to right-center. Dom Iero followed with a sacrifice fly to left to make it a 2-0 game, and the Flashes hung on.
Kent State and Miami will play game two of the series today at 4 p.m.