Flashes baseball win weekend series at Central Michigan
Kent State freshman pitcher John Birkbeck throws against Penn State at Mural Field on April 3. Kent State lost against Penn State 9-7. File photo by Brian Smith.The Kent State baseball team overcame a tough road challenge and won two out of three games against the Central Michigan Chippewas in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
The Flashes improved their regular season record to 23-16 and their record against Mid-American Conference opponents to 12-3. They now hold a one-game lead over the Ohio University Bobcats in the MAC East Division.
Coach Scott Stricklin said he feels his team showed toughness in recovering from the first game and winning the series.
“We had a tough outing in the game on Friday, but we came out and played well the rest of the series,” Stricklin said. “To come back and beat a team like Central Michigan on the road, it speaks volumes to how our guys are developing. It’s a great thing to see.”
Two wins over the Chippewas earned the Flashes their fourth series win against MAC rivals in five tries this season.
Friday — Central Michigan 3, Kent State 0CMU starting pitcher Zach Cooper kept Kent State’s offense in check as the Chippewas earned a win in the series opener.
Cooper pitched a complete game shutout and struck out 13 Flashes for his fourth win of the season. The Flashes managed only four hits against the Chippewas’ right hander.
Sophomore right fielder T.J. Sutton and freshman left fielder Alex Miklos tallied two hits each for the Flashes, who were shut out for the first time since dropping a 2-0 game against Pepperdine on March 16.
Senior left-handed pitcher David Starn allowed three runs, walked five batters and struck out six in his third loss of the year.
Saturday — Kent State 6, Central Michigan 3The Flashes bounced back to tie the series up Saturday behind a solid outing by senior right-handed pitcher Ryan Mace.
Mace, who started in place of junior right hander Ryan Bores, pitched a season-high six and two-thirds innings and allowed just one run while striking out four. Mace earned his second win of the season.
Stricklin said he was really happy with the way Mace stepped up on a day he doesn’t normally start. “We gave [Bores] the day off to give him a little rest,” Stricklin said. “Ryan [Mace] was really big for us, getting us out of a jam in the second inning, then settling in and pitching really well.”
After tying the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the second inning, Central Michigan threatened to break the game open, loading the bases with one out. Mace worked his way out of the threat, forcing a line out and a fielder’s choice to escape the inning with minimal damage.
The Flashes regained the lead in the top of the third inning with an RBI double by senior catcher David Lyon. Kent State extended the lead in the fourth inning when junior center fielder Evan Campbell slapped an RBI double to right field and senior shortstop Jimmy Rider singled to left field to drive in Campbell.
The Chippewas made the game a little closer in the bottom of the eighth inning, scoring two runs and cutting the Flashes’ lead to three. That’s the closest they got, as freshman left-handed pitcher Brian Clark shut the Chippewas down in the bottom of the ninth to earn the first save of his college career.
Sunday — Kent State 6, Central Michigan 4The Flashes erased an early lead by the Chippewas and earned a series-clinching win behind another solid pitching performance.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Tyler Skulina went six innings, allowed three runs — one earned — and struck out 10 batters.
“His performance was the key to the game,” Stricklin said. “We had a couple of errors behind him in the first, but he overcame that and had one of his best games of the season.”
Central Michigan took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning off a pair of errors by the Flashes. After Skulina threw the ball past the first baseman on a pickoff attempt, Miklos misplayed a single in left field that allowed the baserunner to score from second. The Chippewas then added another run on a single to center field.
Miklos redeemed himself in the top of the second inning, smashing and RBI double to left field to get the Flashes on the board. The Flashes took the lead in the top of the fourth courtesy of freshman third baseman Sawyer Polen, who ripped a two-run home run over the right field wall.
Kent State began to pull away in the top of fifth inning. With two on and one out, David Lyon and junior first baseman George Roberts hit back-to-back singles to each drive in a run. Freshman designated hitter Tommy Monnot capped off the three-run inning with an RBI double to right field, making the score 6-2 in favor of the Flashes.
Freshman Brian Clark breezed through another ninth inning for his second save of the weekend. Kent State will return home to Schoonover Stadium to face Niagara University Tuesday at 3 p.m.