Carmichael Featured in Wooster Daily Record
By Aaron Dorksen, Wooster Daily Record
It wasn't the storybook ending senior Jessi Carmichael had hoped for in her fastpitch career when Kent State was knocked out of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Akron's Firestone Stadium Friday.
However, Carmichael will still go down in the Golden Flashes' annals as one of their all-time top players.
When discussing the area's best softball players who went on to play at Div. I colleges, Carmichael's name certainly belongs in that discussion as well. Her accomplishments rank up there with greats such as Jamie Chenevey (Hillsdale/Ohio State), Stephanie Bercaw (Hillsdale/Michigan), Michelle (Gongwer) Leighty (Loudonville/Youngstown State) and Jenny (Allerding) Bishko (Loudonville/Kent State).
There were some ups and downs, a position change from high school and injuries to deal with, but Carmichael ended up as the Golden Flashes' career leader in RBIs (132) and tied for the home run lead (36).
"I feel really good about the career I had," said Carmichael, who was an All-Ohio pitcher on back-to-back Div. IV state champion Dalton teams before converting to shortstop-third base in college. "If you'd have told me I'd go to Kent and set the record for RBIs and tie it for home runs, I'd have said you were full of it.
"I never thought I'd become a power hitter, or be a four-year starter at Kent State. I didn't think it would be as much fun either. ... It started out seeming kind of like a job, putting in four hours a day for softball, but because of the girls around me I really wound up having a blast."
Carmichael scored her team's only run when the Flashes lost 2-1 against Central Michigan Friday, ending Kent's season at 20-31 (9-10 MAC East). She finished the year leading the team with 11 home runs, 42 RBI and 38 runs, while batting .297 (47-for-158).
The Flashes' run of three straight MAC East titles ended as they couldn't make up for the graduation of record-setting pitcher Kyle Reynolds the year before.
With Reynolds in the circle, Kent State earned three straight MAC East titles. The Flashes won the MAC Tournament in Carmichael's freshman year and were the runners-up last spring. The Flashes went 2-2 in Carmichael's only NCAA Tournament appearance in 2008, losing at Michigan in a nationally televised regional final.
"That NCAA trip was definitely one of my biggest highlights, to experience that as a freshman was pretty amazing," Carmichael said. "What I'll remember most, though, are all the friends I've made over the years."
Kent State was snubbed in All-MAC voting this spring, likely due to its drop in the standings, but Carmichael was a first-team honoree as a junior, second-team as a sophomore and an All-MAC Freshman pick.
Chenevey, who's now the coach at West Holmes, has followed Carmichael's career closely and called the former Dalton star "one of the best from the area."
"She's really made a name for herself," said Chenevey, a former All-Big Ten second-team catcher for Ohio State. "I'm really happy for her and I know it hasn't always been easy.
"Starting back when I played, and continuing today, it's kind of a blessing when girls from this area succeed in college like they have. It speaks volumes of the quality of softball that's played around here."
There were many other local products playing college softball this season, including Bowling Green sophomore shortstop Hannah Fulk (Hillsdale), Toledo sophomore catcher Morgan Smith (Chippewa), Morehead State freshman second baseman Stephanie Etter (Tuslaw) and Ohio State freshman pitcher Kasie Kelly in Div. I.
Of course, many more local standouts have played collegiately at the Div. II and III levels.
Carmichael, who will graduate with a managerial marketing degree in December, does not plan to pursue playing professional softball. She'll still get her fill of softball, though, playing slowpitch in a women's and coed league, and supporting younger sister, Shelby, who's on the Mount Union team.
"I'm going to be pretty busy this summer, working, playing softball and planning a wedding (to Zach Bolinger, Daily Record sports correspondent)," Carmichael said. "It will probably hit me how much I miss playing (fastpitch) when Shelby goes back to college in the fall."