The Kent State softball team won its first two games on Friday, then let leads slip away in both games on Saturday to wind up 2-2 after the 2013 season-opening Plainsman Invitational at Auburn's Jane B. Moore Field.
The Golden Flashes, picked to finish third in the Mid-American Conference East Division according to the league's preseason poll, topped East Tennessee State 11-5 in the opener then defeated Army in Friday's nightcap 5-2.
The Kent State lineup did its damage early against ETSU, scoring all five runs in the first two innings. Senior Lauren Grimes (Tallmadge) delivered an RBI double during a two-run first frame. After East Tennessee State tied it up, the Flashes scored three runs in the second as junior Abbey Ledford delivered a bases-clearing double with two outs.
Junior pitcher Lauren McNeil went the distance, allowing six hits with seven strikeouts.
The Flashes never trailed in the nightcap, as freshman Lauren Kesterson delivered a bases-loaded double of her own to plate three runs and put her team up 4-0 in the fourth.
Sophomore hurler Emma Johnson struck out 11 batters and allowed just five hits in the victory.
On Saturday, the Flashes scored runs in the first inning of both games but still fell 5-3 to host Auburn and 8-5 to Furman.
Freshman Shelbi Tilton drove in two runs with a first-inning single to put KSU up 2-0 on the host Tigers. Johnson kept that lead for four innings, allowing just one hit, but surrendered two runs in the top of the fifth.
Kent State responded in the bottom portion of the inning, taking the lead again on a sac fly by Ledford. But Auburn tied the game with a sixth-inning homer, then took advantage of a throwing error to score the game-winning runs in the seventh.
Johnson (1-1) recorded eight strikeouts for Kent State in the complete-game effort, allowing just three earned runs.
Kent State also had a big first inning against Furman, this time scoring four runs as junior Caitie Kilbane belted her first homer of the year. But Furman scored three times in the first two innings, then plated four runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 7-5 lead before holding Kent State hitless in the last three innings to grab the win.
McNeil (1-1) took the loss, allowing four earned runs and 11 hits in 5.2 innings. She struck out five batters.
Overall, Flashes veteran coach Karen Linder was pleased with her team's opening weekend.
"The weekend allowed us to identify some areas we can improve on, and we have all next week to focus on strengthening them since we don't play for two weeks," she said.
Kent State will be back in action with four games at the Louisville Invitational from Feb. 22-24.
TRACK & FIELD
Freshman Dior Delophont was the only KSU athlete to win an event at the SPIRE Division I Invitational on Saturday. Her mark of 42-9 in the women's triple jump ranks second in school history. Delophont also finished as runner-up in the women's high jump by clearing 5-10.75.
Junior Ann Marie Duffus clocked a school-record 8.38 in the finals of the women's 60-meter hurdles to finish in sixth place. She also took second in the long jump with a mark of 19-6.75.
Two other Kent State athletes turned in performances that rank second all-time in Kent State history. Senior Melinda Sawnor finished third in the women's 800-meter run by clocking a 2:06.50, and senior Michael Heller (Stow) finished sixth in the men's 3,000-meter run with a time of 8:08.81.
Other top performances on the men's side came from sophomore Jacob Swords and freshman Jesse Oxley. Swords finished fourth with a time of 1:50.61 in the men's 800-meter run, which ranks fourth in school history, while Oxley cleared 16-6.75 in the men's pole vault to finish seventh.
On the women's side, sophomore Jackie Leppelmeier was runner-up in the shot put with a toss of 50-11.
Kent State will be back at home next weekend when it hosts the Kent State Tuneup on Saturday.
Head coach Rob Marinaro announced the addition of seven signees to the soccer program. Joining the Kent State family next fall will be Jenna Hellstrom (Sudbury, Ont.), Abbie LaVigna (McMuray, Pa.), Abbie Lawson (Stow), Megan Lindbert (Roselle, Ill.), Brittany Maisano (Dublin, Ohio), Mariandrea Molano (Neiva, Columbia) and Morgan Williams (Cranberry Twp., Pa.).
"We're really excited for our 2013 class," Marinaro said. "Not only do we feel we have tremendous soccer players, but also wonderful student-athletes. This group of young ladies will help us continue on the road of success, on and off the field."
Hellstrom is one of two international signees of the class. She led her Lasalle Secondary team in scoring as a freshman, was named team captain her sophomore year and was the MVP after scoring 26 goals in eight games as a junior. Hellstrom gained international experience as a member of the 30-person Canadian World Cup team in 2012.
LaVigna joins the Flashes after four years as a defender at Peters Township High School, which earned state titles three consecutive years from 2010-2012. In her senior season the team was ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps. LaVigna contributed as a three-year starter, helping the defense record 47 shutouts.
A four-year letterwinner at Stow High School, Lawson has picked up athletic and academic accolades along with her career 53 goals and 30 assists. She was named all-district, conference player of the year, WAKR Student-Athlete of the Week and Academic Second Team All-Ohio. She was a captain of the soccer team and the basketball team her senior year, and has earned three letters in basketball and track.
As a freshman, Lindbert was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America High School All-Academic Team. She was a part of the multiple State Cup-finalist Sockers FC Chicago team.
Maisano was chosen for the All-Central Ohio Super 12 First-Team as a senior. She produced 15 goals and 20 assists in her career as a defender and contributed to 28 shutouts. Maisano also played for Blast FC, a two-time State Cup champion.
Molano was a member of the Colombian U-17 Women's National team that played in the 2012 World Cup in Azerbaijan. Prior to that she was on the Bogota Regional team in 2011, and the Molano's Gold Star club team that won the regional championship for three consecutive years from 2010-2012.
Williams lettered four years at Seneca Valley High School as a forward, and was named all-state, all-conference and Post Gazette All-Area after her senior season. She finished her high school career with 49 goals and 32 assists.
The Flashes finished 13-5-2 and made it to the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament last season.
Kent State standout left tackle Brian Winters, a former star at Hudson High School, has been invited to the NFL Combine that runs from Feb. 20-26 in Indianapolis. Winters made a solid showing during the all-important workouts leading up to last month's Senior Bowl, and is currently projected by most experts to be converted to guard and drafted in the third or fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Meanwhile, 1,000-yard rushers Dri Archer and Trayion Durham were honored by the Columbus Touchdown Club Saturday night as 2013 Players to Watch, while kicker Freddie Cortez is getting plenty of attention on the internet after swishing a football from halfcourt -- with a kick of course.
Two overtime matches went Edinboro's way as the No. 16 Fighting Scots squeaked by Kent State 20-19 Sunday at McComb Fieldhouse.
Eight minutes was not enough to settle the final match, as a buzzer-beating reversal by Ernest James in a tiebreaker gave him a 4-2 victory over Keith Witt and gave Edinboro a one-point win.
Each team won five matches and each side earned bonus points in three matches, but an Edinboro pin by No. 3 AJ Schopp at 133 pounds made the difference in team points.
Kent State senior Dustin Kilgore did everything but pin Warren Bosch, earning a 16-1 technical fall by the end of the second period. Kilgore improved to 34-0 with his 27th bonus-point win of the year, and extended his NCAA winning streak to 53 matches and his dual winning streak to 63 matches.
Seniors Stevie Mitcheff and Casey Newburg each claimed major decisions for the Golden Flashes. Mitcheff improved to 24-10, while Newburg upped his record to 31-5 with his 14th bonus-point win of the year.
Sophomore Caleb Marsh and redshirt freshman Sam Wheeler each won by a score of 3-2.
The overtime bout came at 157, when senior Tommy Sasfy and Casey Fuller were deadlocked at 10-10 after three periods. Fuller's takedown in sudden victory gave the Scots a commanding 17-4 lead before the Flashes bounced back with four straight victories.
Kent State (9-5) returns to action Sunday, hosting Oklahoma State, Wisconsin and Northern Iowa in the NWCA Duals Regional at the M.A.C. Center. Pairings for the dual tournament will be announced on Tuesday.
Junior Marie Case was named MAC Gymnast of the Week for the second week in a row after winning three of the five events in Kent State's Feb. 2 victory at Bowling Green.
Case earned a 9.925 on the floor exercise and the balance beam, winning both events, and captured the all-around with a career-best score of 39.450.
Kent State, playing in its first-ever event without Mike Morrow as head coach, sits in 12th place after Sunday's round one of the Lady Puerto Rico Classic held at Rio Mar Country Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
The Golden Flashes posted a 24-over 312 among the 15-team field, with sophomore Jennifer Ha leading the way with a 75 after the first 18 holes. The Calgary native's first round puts her in a tie for 22nd in the 84-player field. Freshman Josee Doyon recorded a 4-over 76 for a share of 39th place.
Arkansas leads the tournament following the first day of play with a 3-over 291. Individually, the Razorbacks' Emily Tubert is first following a 2-under 70.