Flashes Open Season with Five Games at UNLV's Sportco Kickoff Classic
Kent State's 2012 season gets underway this weekend with five games in three days at UNLV's Sportco Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas. The Golden Flashes will open against CSU Bakersfield Friday followed by a tilt with Weber State. On Saturday, Kent State will be tested against No. 5 Oklahoma, immediately followed by a battle with Minnesota. The Flashes and Sooners will play a rematch on Sunday at noon Eastern.
Saturday's game time against Minnesota was recently changed to 6:45 Eastern/3:45 Pacific
"I think this weekend is a great opportunity for us and will be a great measuring stick to see where we are at," Head Coach Karen Linder said. "We know we are going see good pitching and good hitters. The first weekend is about getting your feet wet, getting on dirt and being able to play the game outside. It will be a challenge for us. And hopefully we have an opportunity to go out and prove ourselves in all phases of the game."
The Golden Flashes return their top two pitchers from last season (Lauren McNeil, Danielle Abernathy) along with six players (Jess Blanton, Mary Holt, Shannon Laughlin, Lauren Grimes, Abbey Ledford, Alex Marcantonio) that started more than 40 games last season.
The Sportco Kickoff Classic last hosted Kent State in 2010, when the Golden Flashes dropped five games to open their season. This year, Eller Media Stadium will play host to 14 tournament games over three days. Live stats can be viewed at unlvrebels.com.
CSU Bakersfield recently completed its transition to the Division I level after winning 11 California Collegiate Athletic Association titles in Division II. The Roadrunners are under the direction of first-year head coach Crissy Buck, who served as an assistant coach at Oregon State for nine seasons. CSUB returns 11 letterwinners from a team that hit .262 in 2011.
Weber State also returns 11 players from its 2011 squad. Senior outfielder Erica James-Dixon hit .338 and stole a Pacific Coast Softball Conference record 35 bases last season. Dixon and senior infielder Symbree Minniear were each named to the All-PCSC Second Team last season.
Oklahoma is coming off a 43-19 mark in 2011, capped off by a trip to the Women's College World Series. Junior pitcher Keilani Ricketss is a two-time All-American after winning 29 games last season with a 1.48 ERA and breaking the Sooners' single-season strikeout record. Sophomore outfielder Destinee Martinez led the Big 12 last year with 80 hits. Sophomore Brittany Williams led the team last year with a .485 on-base percentage.
Minnesota finished 31-24 last season and 22-13 in non-conference games. Junior catcher Kari Dorle led the team with nine home runs and 35 RBI last season. The Gophers also return their top pitcher, sophomore Sara Moulton, who went 28-16 with a 2.06 ERA and 330 strikeouts.
This weekend marks the first of five different five-game tournaments the Golden Flashes will compete in through March 18. The next stop will be Raleigh, N.C. for the N.C. State Invitational Feb. 24-26.