Gems from Murray and Kraus lead Flashes to home sweep over Northern Illinois

Senior Brad Hamilton heads toward first base after a base hit during the second game of Kent State’s doubleheader against Northern Illinois on April 13, 2018. The Flashes won the game, 7-2. 

Ian Kreider

Pitching has been the great mystery for the Kent State baseball team all season long.

The Flashes have struggled to put together a string of quality pitching performances for most of the season. That was until this weekend’s series against Northern Illinois.

Game 1: Kent State 7, Northern Illinois 1

Kent State junior pitcher Joey Murray started the game strong, striking out two of the three batters he faced in the first inning. The second inning was not much different as Murray struck out two while allowing a hit and holding Northern Illinois (11-23, 3-9 Mid-American Conference) scoreless.

Kent State’s (22-10, 9-3 MAC) offense was held scoreless through the first two innings as well. Senior right fielder Nick Kanavas started the third inning with a patient at-bat that resulted in a walk. During the next at-bat he stole second, and later in the inning, senior third baseman Pavin Parks drove him in with a double to left field. The score was 1-0 after three innings.

With the Flashes up, 3-1, in the seventh inning, designated hitter Patrick Ferguson hit a grand slam to right center field to put the game out of reach. Ferguson had struck out in each of his previous three plate appearances.

Murray was able to hold the Huskies scoreless until the top of the sixth. After striking out the first two batters of the inning, a runner reached first on an error by Murray. Later in that inning, a run scored off of a double. This was the sole blemish on an otherwise phenomenal day for Murray during which he recorded 15 strikeouts, allowing three hits and pitching a complete game.

Game 2: Kent State 7, Northern Illinois 2

Kent State again had quality pitching in the second game of the series. Junior Connor Wollersheim picked up his third win of the season, pitching five innings allowing two runs on seven hits, while also striking out four.

The offense was able to get on the board earlier in this game as Parks singled to center and drove in a run to make it 1-0 Kent State after the first inning.

The pitching was solid down the stretch with bullpen contributions from sophomore John Matthews and freshman Jack Zimmerman. The duo combined to allow three hits with seven strikeouts in four scoreless innings.

The Flashes’ offense poured it on in the fourth inning, forcing three walks and driving in four runs.

Game 3: Kent State 14, Northern Illinois 0

Senior pitcher Eli Kraus finished off the impressive pitching display by the Flashes with a complete game shutout. He allowed only three hits with six strikeouts.

Kent State again relied on a mid-game run to pull away. The Flashes scored five runs in the fifth to extend the lead to 10-0. They closed the game out with four runs in the seventh and eighth to push it even further out of reach, 14-0.

Kent State will continue its season at 3:05 p.m. Tuesday as it takes on Bowling Green (9-23, 4-6 MAC) at Warren E. Steller Field in Bowling Green, Ohio.

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