Kent State manager Jeff Duncan knew he was going to pull starting pitcher Joe Vranesic early in Tuesday’s game against Bowling Green.
Though Vranesic, a redshirt freshman, cruised through the Falcon’s lineup during the first 3 2/3 innings, surrendering zero runs on five hits, Duncan wanted to protect the right-hander’s arm since he was only making his second career start.
So, when Vranesic reached the 65-pitch plateau, Duncan went to his bullpen, a staff of relievers that came into the game with an 11 inning scoreless streak dating back to Friday’s 15-inning win over Toledo.
Despite the fact that the bullpen allowed the game’s tying run to reach the plate, Kent State closers Zach Spangler and Patrick Dayton combined to record all three ninth inning outs via strikeout in the Flashes (25-12) 3-0 win over Bowling Green (10-26) in a midweek game at Schoonover Stadium that doesn’t count toward either team’s Mid-American Conference standings.
“I thought we did a really good job pitching and we want to keep [the bullpen’s scoreless] streak growing,” Duncan said after the game. “I think we’re playing good baseball, good enough right now. … I thought we hung in there and got some really good pitching performances.”
Redshirt freshman pitcher Austin Havekost – a native of Seville, Ohio – picked up the win, his second of the season, after throwing a scoreless seventh and eighth innings in which Kent State scored all of its runs.
Neither teams were able to get much offensive production until the bottom of the seventh when the Flashes struck first on a Josh Hollander double that scored Nick Kanavas from second.
After Luke Burch reached base on a fielder’s choice with one out in the eighth, Dylan Rosa drove a 2-2 pitch to center that scored Burch from first. Tim DalPorto, the following batter, then smacked a base hit up the middle that brought Rosa home and gave Kent State a three-run lead.
The Falcons had the tying run at the plate in the top of the ninth after Spangler walked Bowling Green’s Cam Daugherty and hit Jake Wilson with a pitch.
But Duncan brought in Dayton with two outs and the left-hander was able to get pinch hitter Ty Suntken looking on a 3-2 pitch to end the game and give Kent State its sixth straight win. During that stretch, which began with last week’s road win at Youngstown State, the Flashes have outscored opponents 35-14.
For Kent State to continue its winning streak this weekend against Central Michigan, the top team in the MAC’s West Division, Duncan said it will have to get strong pitching early in the series.
“I think Eli Kraus starting that series off. [It] will be important for him to have a quality start. And then our bullpen continuing to hold it right and then playing good defense and getting timely hits,” he said. “That’s the name of the game.”