Flashes drop rubber match to Northern Illinois via walk off base hit


Kent State senior infielder Dom Lero throws from second base to first base against Youngstown State on Tuesday April 4, 2017. Kent lost 11-6.

Nick Buzzelli

From the get-go, Kent State trailed for most of Sunday’s rubber match contest against Northern Illinois. But after falling behind by three runs early in the game, the Golden Flashes slowly chipped away at NIU’s lead  scoring one run in the second and two in the sixth.

The game was shaping up to go to extra innings for the second time in three days after NIU’s solo home run in the eighth knotted the score at 7. However, NIU’s Samuel Vega had other plans.

With two outs and a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth, Vega singled up the middle on a 3-2 pitch to give Northern Illinois a 7-8 walk off win over Kent State on Easter Sunday at Ralph McKinzie Field in DeKalb, Illinois.

First baseman Dylan Rosa led the Flashes in the series with five runs batted in on three hits, while right fielder Luke Burch hit .357.

In the Friday opener, left-handed pitcher Eli Kraus led Kent State to a 7-4 win by striking out four in 7 2/3 innings of work. Tied at two in the top of the tenth, Kent State scored five consecutive runs to go up by five and reliever Robert Zeigler, who entered the game in the bottom half of the inning, got out of a bases-loaded jam to preserve the victory.

“It’s a great win for us,” Kent State manager Jeff Duncan said following Friday’s win. “Back and forth, we kept applying pressure and at the end of the day got the ‘W.’ Eli Kraus threw a great game today and stepped up big for us.”

The following day, the Flashes took the series with a 4-1 win behind starter Zach Willeman’s performance on the mound. The junior went seven innings, striking out seven while surrendering one earned run on four hits and two walks.

Jared Skolnicki then threw two scoreless innings to pick up the save, his second of the season. All four of Kent State’s runs Saturday were scored by players who reached base via a walk or were hit by a pitch.

Sunday, however, was a different story. While the bats were there, Kent State struggled with runners in scoring position and left a total of 17 runners on base. Austin Havekost was subsequently charged with the loss after he gave up two earned runs on three hits in the eighth and ninth innings.

Kent State continues its non-conference schedule Tuesday and Wednesday, facing Youngstown State University and the University of Pittsburgh on the road before returning to Schoonover Stadium to host Mid-American Conference foe University of Toledo this weekend.

Nick Buzzelli is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected]