Flashes Win a Pair of Extra-Inning Games in Sweep of Western Michigan
KENT, Ohio- Kent State extended its winning streak to five games Friday with a doubleheader sweep over defending Mid-American Conference champion Western Michigan. Staying at the top of the MAC standings, the Golden Flashes (22-18, 8-2) needed extra innings in both games, topping the Broncos 2-1 in the opener and 4-2 in game two.
"We had two great wins today" Head Coach Karen Linder said. "I am so proud of how we fought and came through with big plays on defense in both games."
Game one turned out to be a pitcher's duel, but sophomore Alex Marcantonio (North Canton, Ohio) made the first hit of the game count with an opposite field homer in the top of the second. Bronco starter Meredith Whitney retired the first five batters she faced, including three with strikeouts, before Marcantonio launched her fourth homer of the year.
Western Michigan repaid the favor in the fourth with a leadoff homer by Courtney Rousseau to left center. Freshman starter Emma Johnson's (Groveport, Ohio) then buckled down and retired the next six batters and did not allow another hit until the eighth.
In the top of the eighth, freshman Dani Ramos (South Euclid, Ohio) reached base with a one-out, infield single. Senior Jess Blanton (Wheelersburg, Ohio) then delivered the game-changing RBI double, as Ramos scored from first.
After the Bronocos loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth with no outs, junior Danielle Abernathy (Adairsville, Ga.) took over and forced back-to-back ground balls including a game-ending 1-2-3 double play. Johnson earned her 12th win of the year, while Abernathy claimed her second save.
Marcantonio reached base in three of her plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with a walk.
"Alex played great in the first game," Linder said. "And Danielle came in and got out us out of a tough jam. Emma pitched well and our defense was solid."
After closing out game one, Abernathy started game two and went 8.1 innings for the victory, without allowing an earned run.
The Broncos struck first in the opening inning of game two with a pair of singles and the help of an outfield throwing error to take a 1-0 lead. The Flashes tied it up in the third when freshman Kim Kirkpatrick (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) scored on a double steal. Kirkpatrick doubled to center, moved to third on a groundout and got some help on the steal from Blanton, who walked.
Becca Shemberger had been solid in the first eight innings for the Broncos, before things started to unwind in the ninth. Kent State drew three walks in the ninth, took advantage of an error and a hit-by-pitch to take a three-run lead.
The Broncos came charging back in the bottom of the ninth with a single, a double and a walk to load the bases. An infield error made it 4-2 and put the tying run on second. Johnson came on in the ninth and fanned the next two batters to earn the save.
"We turned two huge double plays late in the game to end innings when they were threatening," Linder said. "Emma and Danielle are doing great as a tandem. And Sarah Starr stepped in and made several great defensive plays."
Kent State continues its MAC West road swing Saturday, visiting Northern Illinois at 3 p.m. Eastern.