On opening day 2021, within the second inning of recreation one, all the season-complexion of the Kent State softball staff modified dramatically.
Golden Flashes ace junior redshirt Andrea Scali, 2019 Mid-American Convention Pitcher of the 12 months, was unable to place a lot weight on her left leg after delivering a pitch with bases loaded in sixteenth place from Georgia. She tried a coaching floor however fell to the bottom and needed to be helped off the pitch.
Scali has not returned to the roster since that day of February 20 in Athens and will very effectively be sidelined for the rest of the ’21 season.
“There’s nonetheless a chance that Andrea will come again this 12 months, however we do not count on to get her again within the subsequent few weeks,” Flashes coach Eric Oakley stated. “His angle via all of it has been actually good. All indicators level to her coming again subsequent 12 months. If we are able to get something out of it this 12 months, a lot the higher.
Together with Scali, Kent State was declared the preseason favourite to win the 2021 MAC title. With out their dominant pitcher, who threw three cleans and an ideal play in 19, the Flashes are searching for solutions within the circle. They are going to enter this weekend’s MAC season opener towards visiting Toledo at 3-10 after shedding their final six video games – with a tag ERA of seven.74.
“[Losing Scali] shook us fairly rapidly, ”Oakley stated. “We additionally had a pitcher withdrawal [due to COVID-19 concerns] and misplaced one other pitcher simply earlier than leaving for Alabama [March 5]. We needed to deliver gamers again into the rotation that we actually did not recruit to launch. We’re attempting to determine what to do within the circle, which is clearly a giant deal. “
A part of the reply is in place.
Rookie Jessica LeBeau was set to have an instantaneous affect at Kent State after enjoying at Lake Excessive Faculty, the place she gained All-Ohio honors twice. She was written in pencil because the No.2 holder because the season approached, however was introduced up instantly after Scali’s damage.
“Mainly, the load of program expectations was instantly thrown on his shoulders,” Oakley stated. “She’s used to having the load of a program on her shoulders. She did it in Lake. Nevertheless it occurred just a little quicker than she anticipated. Up to now.”
In Recreation 2 of Day 1 of his first season, LeBeau was within the circle towards a really strong Longwood aspect and went the gap with 9 strikeouts in a 2-1 win. She then confronted the Everlasting Nationwide Energy Bulldogs the following day and was up 1-0 earlier than Georgia rallied for 4 factors within the sixth to win 4-1.
LeBeau gave a two-stroke cry with 15 strikeouts towards Southern Alabama on March 6. She produced strong numbers whereas dealing with stellar non-championship competitors as a collegiate rookie, going 2-5 with a 3.68 ERA. LeBeau walked 23 years whereas dropping 58 in 40 innings of labor.
The 5-foot-8 right-hander has solely struggled so badly as soon as this season – final Friday, when LeBeau allowed six runs in 1⅓ of innings towards the seventeenth Missouri.
“She stepped up,” Oakley stated. “We actually ought to have gained the sport towards Georgia. She offered very effectively. She had the large exit towards Southern Alabama. She’s had just a few of these wake-up occasions as effectively. Towards Missouri the [strike] the world was actually tight and he or she could not discover it, and you might see some frustration. However she got here again the following day and knocked out two of her greatest hitters with bases loaded.
“She learns quick.”
The Flashes count on to be aggressive with LeBeau within the circle this spring. However the MAC’s new programming format, which options four-game playoffs each weekend, will pressure groups to make use of a number of pitchers. Since there can be no MAC event this 12 months, the common season champion wins the NCAA convention event computerized entry.
“Jess cannot pitch 4 video games in a weekend. I am reluctant to make him throw three, ”Oakley stated. “Everybody on the MAC has an ace for essentially the most half, so it is going to actually depend upon what your two, three and 4 pitchers can do for you.
Different pitchers who can be required to contribute every weekend for Kent State embrace sophomores Gabby Sherman and Morgan Bowers, who’re anticipated to return from damage within the coming weeks, in addition to junior Grace Saupe and freshman Madison Hershberger. Brenna Brownfield, the 2019 MAC Participant of the 12 months together with her stellar punching skill, may also be requested to provide her staff just a few innings within the circle.
“We’ll in all probability need to do a little bit of committee pitching. However I believe lots of different MAC groups can be in the identical boat, ”stated Oakley. “Actually the one staff I see proper now that has two reputable starters is Miami. We’re proper there within the combine with everybody. “
Oakley can be searching for his assault to escalate with out Scali.
“As a substitute of successful 2-1 taking pictures matches, perhaps we have to win 8-7 shootouts,” Oakley stated. “We’ve got lots of veteran hitters who must be hitting the ball higher than they’re proper now. We’ve got to throw all of it out the window and understand we will need to knock. “
Senior Kennadie Goth (.393) and junior Brooklyn Whitt (.310) are off to an excellent begin, however no different Flash goes above .275 – together with Brownfield, who beats .243 with two dwelling runs and 9 factors. merchandise.
“Brenna is beginning to look just a little extra assured,” Oakley stated. “[Senior Alexis] Taube [.273] made some changes final weekend and had some huge hits towards some actually good throws. Brooklyn has managed to make its approach to a beginning place and hits effectively and steals bases (5). We positively have offense if we play inside our talents.
Nobody denies the truth that the Flashes are a unique staff with out Scali. Specializing in what they’ve fairly than what they do not have would be the key to success in 2021 regardless of shedding.
“You suppose what it could be if, what can be our document if we had Andrea. However that is one thing we even needed to inform the staff, it is out the window, ”Oakley stated. “Now we’ve got to reinvent who we’re.”