Kent State completes season sweep of Pitt with shutout win

Kent State starting pitcher Jared Skolnicki throws a pitch to a Pittsburgh batter during the Flashes’ 2-0 win over Pittsburgh on April 18, 2018. Kent State swept the two-game season series against the Panthers.

Ian Kreider

There have been two constants during this spring in Ohio: sporadic weather and the Kent State baseball team winning games.

Today it was more of the latter as the Flashes secured their seventh straight win in a 2-0 shutout against Pittsburgh (19-15, 8-10 Atlantic Coast Conference). This is the third straight game that Kent State (23-10, 9-3 Mid-American Conference) has held the opposing team to two or fewer runs.

The teams combined for five hits through as many innings in a 0-0 stalemate. Freshman designated hitter Nick Elsen pinch hit for sophomore Patrick Ferguson in the sixth. Ferguson was 0-for-2 up to that point, grounding into the infield shift both times. Elsen singled up the middle and drove in Pavin Parks from third to put the Flashes on the board, 1-0.

“Tim Dalporto was able to fight off a ground ball on an 0-2 count that allowed Parks to advance to third,” Kent State coach Jeff Duncan said. “Little things like that in a tight game are huge.”

Two innings later, Elsen proved himself again as he crushed a solo home run to give Kent State a 2-0 lead. Elsen is now 7-for-7 over the last two games.

“Having both (Elsen) and Ferguson in the eight spot has been working well for us over the past few weeks,” Duncan said.

The Kent State pitching staff proved again they are a challenging group to deal with. Six pitchers combined to throw a three-hit shutout.

“Our bullpen did great,” Duncan said. “We did a really good job mixing and matching for a variety of situations.”

Senior pitcher Jared Skolnicki started things off right, as he threw 5.1 innings while allowing only two hits. Freshman right-hander Tyler Drabick and junior lefty John Schreiber each came in to pitch less than an inning in order to exploit mismatches.

Sophomore John Matthews came on in the eighth for Drabick. He got into a jam after two walks and a hit loaded the bases with two outs. The coaching staff put their trust in Matthews, and he delivered. He struck out the last batter of the inning to end the rally attempt.

Freshman Collin Romel came on in the top of the ninth for the save. He walked the first batter, struck out the second and forced a line drive double play to end the game for his fourth save of the season.

The Flashes will look to make it eight straight wins overall and five straight in conference as they take on Ohio (17-19, 5-7 MAC) for a three-game weekend series starting at 4 p.m. Friday at Schoonover Stadium.

Ian Kreider is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].