Flashes baseball drops two games in Fresno, sweeps NIU
After playing on the road for the first 18 games of the season, the Kent State baseball team returned to Schoonover Stadium for its first home series.
Coach Scott Stricklin said he’s more than happy to be back home after his team played games in New Mexico and California where the team posted a mere 1-5 record.
“It’s been a tough two weeks,” Stricklin said. “We’re on a time change, and we dealt with some jet lag. Our guys are more comfortable at home.”
The Flashes’ home comfort proved to be an important factor as they earned a sweep in their first series in Kent.
Tuesday, March 20 — Fresno State 14, Kent State 2
Losing two of three games to Pepperdine University, the Flashes hoped to rebound against Fresno State. The Bulldogs resisted, exploding for 14 runs on 18 hits to take game one of the two-game series.
The Flashes fell behind early in the game and couldn’t get clutch hits, stranding 10 potential runs on base.
Kent State tallied 11 hits, and four Flashes had two hits each.
Wednesday, March 21 — Fresno State 5, Kent State 2
A four-run sixth inning by Fresno State pushed the Bulldogs ahead and kept them in the lead for good.
Senior shortstop Jimmy Rider got things started for the Flashes in the fourth with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by junior first baseman George Roberts.
Fresno State took the lead in the sixth inning and extended the lead with another run in the eighth.
Junior center fielder Evan Campbell slapped a double to right field in the ninth inning and scored on a single by Rider, but the Flashes could not come any closer, falling to the Bulldogs 5-2.
Friday, March 23 — Kent State 12, Northern Illinois 6
Senior left-handed pitcher David Starn had a solid outing for the Flashes as they earned a victory in their first home game of the season.
Starn allowed five runs on six hits and struck out a season-high 11 in seven innings, improving his record to 4-2
“Starn got locked in around the fourth inning,” Stricklin said. “He gives us a chance to win every time he pitches.”
Kent State gained the lead with five runs in the bottom of the fifth, including RBI doubles from senior catcher David Lyon and sophomore left fielder Troy Summers.
Starn said things started to click for him after his team took the lead.
“It’s easier to play with a lead,” Starn said. “It gives me less to worry about, so run support helps a lot.”
Stricklin said he was happy with the way his team played after arriving in Kent at 12:15 that morning from their road trip.
“We thought we’d be a little groggy, and we played like it for the first few innings,” Stricklin said. “I’m really proud of how we picked things up.”
Saturday, March 24 — Kent State 6, Northern Illinois 1
The Flashes took a 2-0 series lead against the Huskies behind an incredible performance by junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Bores.
Bores pitched eight innings, allowed one run on three hits and tallied a career-high nine strikeouts.
Bores said playing at home after a long road trip was a major factor in his performance.
“It’s great being home after being on the road for so many games,” Bores said. “It was good to come home and get a good night’s sleep.” Stricklin said Bores’ performance was the key to the Flashes’ victory.
“That’s about as close to perfect as you’re going to see from him,” Stricklin said. “That’s what we hope to get from him every time out.”
Kent State got off to a 3-0 lead after Lyon blasted a two-run homerun in the third inning.
Sunday, March 25 — Kent State 5, Northern Illinois 3
The Flashes capped off their first home series by completing the sweep on the Huskies on Sunday.
Junior infielder Nick Hamilton came up big for the Flashes, pinch-hitting in the seventh inning and driving home the go-ahead run with a single.
Hamilton said he was glad to come into the game and have the opportunity to help his team out.
“It was obviously a big situation with a tie game,” Hamilton said. “That’s really what you want as a player, to be in that kind of situation.”
With a 3-0 lead, Kent State left the bases loaded in the fourth inning, and NIU battled back to tie the game in the seventh.
“We had some opportunities to break the game open, and we just didn’t get the hit,” Stricklin said. “That happens from time to time, but our guys hung in there.”
Freshman relief pitcher Brian Clark got the win, and junior right-handed pitcher Casey Wilson earned his third save.