Flashes sweep Toledo in final home series of season

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Kent second baseman Pavin Parks watches the ball sail over the right-center field wall for a solo home run. 

John Conley

The final home series for the Kent state baseball team ended in a series sweep of Toledo.

The sweep was the first Mid-American Conference sweep for the Flashes and, with seven games left in the season, they are right where they need to be to finish strong.

“It’s a good time to start playing well and finishing the job,” coach Jeff Duncan said. “Last week we were close to a series sweep and this weekend we were able to do it. All weekend we were good offensively.”

The series started with a 6-3 win for the Flashes.

Senior Connor Wollersheim got the start, pitching five innings with eight strikeouts. Wollersheim improved his record to 5-5 on the season. Sophomore Tyler Drabick came in relief, picking up his third save of the season.

The Rockets jumped to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but the Flashes responded tying the game at one on a sophomore Michael Turner sacrifice fly.

Kent State would take the lead in the bottom of the third, scoring three runs. Freshman Colin Matthews drove in senior Josh Hollander on another sacrifice-fly. Turner followed with an RBI-double to score sophomore Ben Carew and senior Kian O’Brien would hit a single up the middle, bringing in Turner.

Toledo scored two runs in the fourth inning, closing the lead to, 4-3. The Flashes added another run in the bottom of the fourth on a senior Pete Schuler’s RBI single. Kent State added another in the fifth inning, when Matthews hit a triple and was brought in by another Turner sacrifice fly.

The score would remain 6-3 for the rest of the game, giving the Flashes a series opening win.

The second game of the series went the Flashes way as they picked up the win, 11-5.

Freshman Trevor Pittman got the start, but struggled early, only going two innings. Pittman gave up four earned runs off five hits. He was relieved by junior John Matthews, who secured the win, throwing six innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts. That is the most strikeouts by any Kent State pitcher this season. Freshman Max Rippl came in the ninth to end the game on the mound.

The Flashes struck first on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first, getting two RBI-singles from Turner and senior Pavin Parks. The Rockets responded in the next frame tying the game up with a two-run home run. Toledo would put two more runs up in the next inning, giving them the lead, 4-2.

Kent State put four runs up in the bottom of the third, giving the Flashes a lead they wouldn’t relenquish.

The Flashes had bases loaded and Turner collected his second and third RBI off a single to score two runs and O’Brien grounded into a double-play, but scored junior Cam Touchette in the process. Parks hit his ninth home run of the season with a solo shot, giving the Flashes a 6-4 lead. Turner got his fourth RBI of the game the next inning on a single.

Kent State added four more runs in the seventh, putting the game out of reach. Turner would hit a two-out double and would score off the next batter O’Brien who hit a triple. Parks and Colin Matthews were both walked to load the bases and Schuler would draw a walk, collecting an RBI. Senior Josh Hollander followed with a two-run single to put the score at 11-5.

The series finale ended the same way the other two games did, with the Flashes winning, 5-2.

Junior Zach Schultz got the start, going six innings with nine strikeouts. Schultz picked up his second win, allowing two earned runs off six hits. Freshman Luke Albright came in relief, tossing three scoreless innings and five strikeouts, while also picking up his second save.

Toledo jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but the Flashes scored two of their in the next frame to take the lead.

O’Brien laid down a sacrifice-bunt to score Carew and Parks doubled to bring in Touchette.

The Flashes added another run in the third on a Turner sacrifice-fly, scoring Carew.

The score would remain at 3-1 until the seventh inning when each team put up runs. The Rockets got a run in the top of the seventh, closing the gap. Kent State put up two runs on RBI-singles from Touchetter and Turner.

Turner finished the series with nine RBI, contributing in every game.

“He’s becoming a complete player,” Duncan said about Turner. “He’s getting better as he goes and he doesn’t strike out much offensively. He has a real simple approach and is a line-drive hitter with some power.”

Kent State celebrated Senior Day, during Sunday’s series finale. The Flashes will graduate seven seniors from the team in the offseason.

“It’s pretty bittersweet,” O’Brien said. “ A lot of memories have happened here in this program and it’s sad to see it come to an end. At the same time, it kind of motivates you to keep it going as long as possible.”

The Flashes have two more MAC series against Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan. They will also play Wright State in a single game on May 14.

Kent State is now 25-20 on the year and 12-7 in MAC play. The Flashes still sit in fourth place in the conference standings, but are inching closer to the top.

“I’m looking forward to going into Bowling Green and playing really well,” Duncan said. “It’s about winning that first pitch on Friday and going from there.”

John Conley is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]