Flashes Look to Make Season Turning Point at Marshall Invitational
Making its fourth consecutive weekend trip to the South, Kent State (5-9) heads to Huntington, W. Va., playing five games at the Marshall Invitational. The Golden Flashes will open their weekend slate Friday morning against Presbyterian before battling host Marshall. KSU will play a rematch against both teams Saturday and take on MAC East foe Buffalo Sunday in a non-conference game.
Live stats for all tournament games can be viewed on www.herdzone.com
The Thundering Herd (6-8) is coming off a 2-2 weekend at the Auburn War Eagle Classic with wins over Georgia Southern and Belmont. Sophomores Jazmine Valle (.263) and Taylor Thompson (.308) each went 3-for-3 against Belmont, while freshman Natalee Pulver tossed a shutout. Sophomore Andi Williamson earned her fifth win of the year in a shutout of Georgia Southern. Sophomore Bri Anna Hope is hitting .357. Four Marshall players have six or more stolen bases. Three of Marshall's losses have come against SEC opponents.
The Blue Hose (7-1-1) are off to their best start in program history. Junior Leslie Hensley was recently named Big South Pitcher of the Week. Last weekend, she went 3-1 with three shutouts and an ERA of 0.27. She struck out 27 batters, including 10 in a 3-0 win vs. Rider. Presbyterian shut out five opponents during its seven-game winning streak to start the season. Senior Brittany Howell is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA. Sophomore Tera Powell leads the offense, hitting .310 with two doubles and six stolen bases.
After a tough schedule to start the year, the Bulls (2-8) are a combined 0-4 against ACC, Big 12 and SEC teams. Junior Holly Johnson threw a four-hit shutout in a win over Winthrop. Freshman Tori Pettine is batting .292 on the year. In a victory over Marshall, Pettine went 2-for-3 with two RBI. Freshman Holly Luciano is hitting .280 and her six stolen bases rank second in the MAC.
Pair of Newcomers Continue to Make Big Impact
Last weekend at Florida Atlantic, freshman Alex Marcantonio proved her first two weekends were no fluke. In five games, she went 6-for-11 (.545) with six walks, a double and six runs scored, giving her a .722 on-base percentage and an .822 slugging percentage. Marcantonio has started all 14 games, playing left field and shortstop. Her .410 average on the year ranks eighth in the MAC.
Freshman pitcher Lauren McNeil earned two victories at Florida Atlantic last weekend. McNeil has hurled nearly twice as many innings as any other KSU pitcher. In her most recent game against FAU, she struck out a season-high eight. She has fanned 30 on the year and carries a team best 3.22 ERA. At the Pirate Classic, McNeil allowed only four earned runs in 14 innings.
Grimes Providing Consistency at the Top
Sophomore leadoff hitter Lauren Grimes (.375) leads the Mid-American Conference with 18 hits. Grimes has notched at least one hit in 12-of-14 games this season. Last weekend she smacked two hits in three different games. Grimes has also pounded a double in six different games, which also leads the MAC. As a freshman in 2010, Grimes hit .374, the highest single season average at Kent State in the last decade. Her 45 runs scored was the second highest total in school history.
Laughlin Breaking Through
Redshirt junior Shannon Laughlin saw limited action in previous seasons, but has taken advantage of her opportunities this year. Her .344 average ranks third on the team, while her seven RBI and seven walks rank second. At the Pirate Classic, Laughlin led the Golden Flashes with a .417 batting average (5-for-12) over four games. She also doubled and launched the first home run of her career. At the Phoenix Classic, she went 3-for-8 at the plate with four walks.
Winning Big With Offense
In four of Kent State's five victories, the Golden Flashes have scored nine runs or more. Three of those wins have been by seven runs or more. As a team, KSU has 30 extra base hits in 14 games.
Marshall holds a slight advantage on KSU at 19-16, but the Golden Flashes took two games from the Thundering Herd last season. In 3-2 win last season, Mary Holt went 2-for-3 with double. Two days later. The Flashes topped Marshall 8-4 behind two home runs from Lauren Grimes and homers from Holt and Jess Blanton.
Kent State and Presbyterian will be playing for the first time in the history of the two programs.
The Golden Flashes hold an 18-5 all-time series lead with the Bulls after splitting a pair of games last season. In an 8-2 home win over Buffalo, Grimes knocked a pair of hits and Jess Carmichael left the year. The MAC East rivals last met at neutral site at the 2005 MAC Tournament.
Blanton: Not Easy to Run on
Junior catcher Jess Blanton has already gunned down 10 runners on stolen base attempts. Last season, Blanton threw out 11 runners.
The Golden Flashes will not compete next weekend, returning to action March 18-20 at the South Florida Invitational in Clearwater. KSU will play five opponents in three days, including Oklahoma State and Rutgers.