Kent State Marks First Step In Road To MAC Title

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A 6-1 loss to Northern Illinois on Senior Day wasn’t a perfect end to the Ohio softball team’s regular season. But the postseason awaits, and the three-hour trek to Akron for the Mid-American Conference Tournament could be just what it takes to re-energize the Bobcats.

No. 5 seed Ohio enters the postseason ranking sixth in the MAC in three categories: team batting average (.273), team ERA (3.16) and team defense (.958 fielding percentage).

The Bobcats face No. 4 seed Kent State in the first round of the MAC Tournament, and head coach Jodi Hermanek is 1-1 against the Golden Flashes in the postseason. The ‘Cats were eliminated after the Flashes used a 9-5 win to kick them out of the 2012 postseason. But they got their revenge last year as their 5-4 win knocked Kent out of MAC champion contention.

Now the Golden Flashes will be the ones looking for revenge. They missed out on their chance to play Ohio during the regular season, because of weather reasons, and they will be anxious to hit the diamond at Firestone Stadium to take on the lower-seeded Bobcats.

Kent and Ohio have met 104 times throughout the years, with the Golden Flashes leading the all-time series 59-42-1. The Flashes were also picked to win the MAC East Division and received votes to win the championship in the preseason poll, as voted on by the league’s head coaches.

Kent State sports a shaky offense, with a .239 batting average – good for 10th in the MAC – and a ninth-ranked defense with a .957 fielding percentage. But the Golden Flashes do sport the No. 1 pitching staff in the league, with a team ERA of 2.64. Emma Johnson is the ace of the staff, with a 14-9 record, 154 strikeouts and a 2.16 ERA in 24 appearances.

The offense is led by Kim Kirkpatrick, who has 39 hits, and Maddy Grimm, who has a team-high 13 homers to her name as well as 41 RBIs.

The Bobcats aren’t hurting in the hitting department either, with Amanda Dalton and Casie “Clutch” Hutchinson serving as the big bats in the lineup. Both were recently named to the All-MAC team, and deservedly so, with Dalton owning a batting average of .410 and a team-high 25 hits in conference play. Hutchinson possesses a .333 average with 20 hits and 10 RBIs in 20 MAC games.

Adrienne Gebele and Alexandria Basquez have also been huge offensively for Ohio. Gebele leads the team with a .560 slugging percentage and 89 total bases, while Basquez leads the team in runs scored (26), RBIs (40) and home runs (10). Gebele is second on the team in each of those three categories.

Ohio is playing for the right to claim its first-ever MAC Tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. The MAC Tournament is a double-elimination, eight-team tournament that spans from May 7 to May 10. The winner of Ohio-Kent State will face the winner of MAC regular season champion and No. 1 seed Ball State vs. No. 8 seed Miami. The losers of both games will be pitted against each other in an elimination game.