Flashes Begin MAC Championships Wednesday Against Central Michigan
An automatic bid to an NCAA Regional is on the line this week as Kent State is one of eight teams to qualify for the Mid-American Conference Championships at Firestone Stadium in Akron. The Golden Flashes (26-28, 11-11) claimed the No. 7 and will begin their tournament run against No. 6 Central Michigan (26-25, 11-10) Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. The four-day double elimination tournament is scheduled to conclude Saturday, May 12.
Live stats for all tournament games can be viewed at mac-sports.com. Also look for live updates on Twitter @ksuathletics.
Under a new format this season, the top two teams in the regular season standings (Ball State & Miami) receive double byes and play their first game on Thursday. The third and fourth seeds (Bowling Green & Ohio) receive one bye and take on winners of the opening round games.
The winner of the Kent State-Central Michigan game will play again Wednesday against No. 3 Bowling Green at 7:30 p.m., while loser plays in an elimination game Thursday at 11 a.m.
This season marks Kent State's ninth straight appearance at the MAC Championships, the longest current streak of any program.
Since 2006, Kent State has gone 14-8 in conference tournament games, making three title game appearances and winning championships in both 2006 and 2008.
The last five tournaments have been won by five different teams. The last time a program repeated as tournament champions was 2002 (Central Michigan).
The MAC Tournament was first held from 1982-86 and was resumed in 1996. It expanded from six teams to eight in 2005.
The Golden Flashes are 23-23 all-time at the MAC Tournament and 21-20 under Head Coach Karen Linder. Kent State made its first of four championship game appearances in 1998, during Linder's second season.
Linder and CMU Head Coach Margo Jonker will be facing each other in a conference tournament game for the ninth time on Wednesday.
Last season, the Flashes went 1-2 at the MAC Championships with a pair of one-run losses. Abbey Ledford (West Liberty, Ohio) was named to the MAC All-Tournament Team after going 5-for-10 at the plate. Danielle Abernathy (Adairsville, Ga.) carried a 0.53 ERA over 13.1 innings and earned a victory against Eastern Michigan.
Kent State went 8-6 against conference tournament qualifiers this season, including two-game sweeps over Toledo, Central Michigan and Western Michigan.
The Flashes' 73 doubles are the fourth most in program history. Kent State's 144 walks are the fifth most in school history.
KSU ranks 66th in the nation in home runs per game (0.78).
The Golden Flashes have scored eight or more runs in a game 11 different times this season.
Kent State's pitching and defense has held opponents to two or less runs scored in 19 games this year.
Over the last 12 games, senior Jess Blanton (Wheelersburg, Ohio) is hitting .344 with four home runs, 12 walks and a .523 on-base percentage. During that stretch, Ledford is hitting .343.
Senior Lauren Mokler (Uniontown, Ohio) is hitting .395 (15-for-38) with runners in scoring position.
Kent State's seven home runs at Buffalo on April 22, broke a single-game school record.
After a 4-9 start, Kent State went 22-12 over their next 34 games, before dropping seven straight to close out the season.
The Golden Flashes went 14-of-16 on stolen base attempts in conference play.
Freshman Emma Johnson (Groveport, Ohio) ranks 49th in the nation in strikeouts per seven innings (7.9) and 35th in saves.
Kent State ranks 34th in the nation in doubles per game (1.35), led by Laughlin with 13. Since last season, Laughlin has totaled 14 doubles in conference play.
Kent State's current RPI is 123 of 289 Division I teams. The Flashes have played 29 games against opponents with higher RPIs.
Since 2006, the Golden Flashes have gone 103-42 in conference play.
Kent State's Players and Pitchers of the Week
Senior Shannon Laughlin (Fairview Park, Ohio) was named Mid-American Conference East Division Player of the Week on April 24. In two games at Buffalo, Laughlin hit .600 (6-for-10) with two doubles, a home run and seven runs batted in. She carried a 1.100 slugging percentage, a .636 on-base percentage and scored four runs.
Laughlin joined Ledford as the second Kent State player to earn MAC Player of the Week honors this season. Johnson has earned two Pitcher of the Week honors.
Central Michigan is riding a five-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 34-5 during that stretch. Junior Kara Dornbos carried a 2.21 earned run average over 13 conference appearances. She tossed a five-hit shutout against Akron on April 29 and a three-hit shutout against Buffalo on March 31. Senior Molly Coldren is hitting .349 with 14 home runs, nine doubles and 45 RBI. Junior Macy Merchant is hitting a team best .358 with 14 stolen bases. Senior Ashley Gilson has had the most success in conference games, hitting .362 with a.471 on-base percentage.
Bowling Green (35-20, 15-7) dropped three of its final four games of the regular season to drop out of the top spot in the MAC East. The Falcons are 11-3 in neutral site games this season. Freshman pitcher Paris Imholz is 17-9 on the season with a 1.85 ERA and a MAC-leading seven saves. In conference games, the Falcons carry the best ERA (2.19) in the MAC. Junior Hannah Fulk hit .379 in conference play with 10 homers, five doubles and 17 walks. Junior Paige Berger (.329) leads the team with 15 doubles. Bowling Green is 47-of-54 on stolen base attempts.
Central Michigan leads the all-time series with Kent State 41-35, but the Golden Flashes swept this year's regular season series with scores of 5-2 and 3-2. Johnson earned a pair of wins against the Chippewas, allowing just two runs and four hits in 9.1 innings. Laughlin, Blanton, sophomore Alex Marcantonio (North Canton, Ohio) and senior Mary Holt (Providence, R.I.) all homered in the doubleheader. Kent State and Central Michigan will be meeting for the third straight season at the conference tournament. The Flashes 2011 season came to an end at the hands of the Chippewas at the MAC Tournament. CMU capped off a 3-0 season against Kent State with a 2-1 postseason victory. During the regular season, Laughlin had a 2-for-3 game with a home run.
Kent State leads the all-time series with Bowling Green 56-44-1. The Flashes and Falcons split a regular season doubleheader on April 6 in Kent. Abernathy allowed just one run in a complete game victory as the Flashes took game two 3-1. Holt and junior Lauren Grimes (Tallmadge, Ohio) each homered in the win. Last season in Bowling Green, Abernathy did not allow an earned run in a 10-1 Kent State victory. The Flashes also won game one in 2011, 3-2. Holt doubled in both games. Kent State won the most recent MAC Tournament meeting 8-0 in 2010.
Strides For Autism
The Kent State softball team would like to thank everyone for their support of Strides For Autism. The Golden Flashes have surpassed their goal of raising $1,000. For the second straight season, six-year old Joey Cheney threw out the first pitch of a home game. Joey was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 ½ and has had major breakthroughs in the areas of communication and motor skills since enrolling at the Family Child Learning Center. The Golden Flashes had the opportunity to see first-hand, the benefits of attending FCLC. Donations can still be made through the middle of May at FirstGiving.com.
Team & MAC Leaders
Laughlin ranks sixth in the MAC with 13 doubles. In conference-only games, she is second in the MAC with eight doubles. Grimes is just behind her with seven doubles in MAC play.
Johnson's 2.22 ERA ranks third in the MAC, while her 212 strikeouts rank second and are the seventh most in a season at Kent State. She also ranks in the MAC's Top 10 in shutouts, wins, opponent batting average, innings pitched, saves and complete games.
Ledford leads the team with 30 RBIs, just four shy of cracking Kent State's Top 10 for most in a season. Ledford also has a team-high 49 hits
Grimes has a team best 32 runs scored.
Freshman Dani Ramos (South Euclid, Ohio) has a team best 11 stolen bases.
Blanton ranks sixth in the MAC in on-base percentage (.449) and leads the Flashes in hitting (.327) and slugging (.503). Her 34 walks rank third in the MAC and 69th in the nation.