Baseball starts season in Myrtle Beach


Sophomore Pitcher Andy Ravel pitching a ball against a Ball State University batter. The Flashes won 11 to 7. April 12, 2015.

Zach Harley

There may be snow on the ground in Kent, but the Flashes’ baseball team will be enjoying summer-like conditions this weekend as they kick off their 2016 campaign in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina by taking on the University of Virginia Cavaliers, the defending national champions.

Kent State, a Mid-American Conference powerhouse that has won five of the last seven MAC championships, with its last victory coming in 2014, had an off year last season. The team missed out on a MAC Championship, finishing the regular season with a 31-22 record and going 18-9 in MAC play. 

Coach Jeff Duncan, starting his third year as the skipper for the Flashes, acknowledged that though last year was not up to standards, the team was still able to take some positives out of the season.

 “In light of last year, we did some things that were good (in spite) of adversity,” Duncan said. “But that makes us more prepared and focused and more hungry going into this year.”

The adversity Duncan mentions goes back to a number of key players out because of injury last year, including current redshirt senior Alex Miklos, who said he’s good to go for 2016, but his knee is never going to be like it was prior to the injury. Miklos sat out the 2015 season after going down in 2014 with a knee injury that kept him out of tournament play that year. 

Duncan also points to their rotation as a big key to success this year. With the likes of junior Eric Lauer, senior Nick Jensen-Clagg and junior Andy Ravel leading the way on the mound for the Flashes, it’s easy to get excited. Lauer, who can top out around 97 mph and is already being looked at for the 2016 MLB Draft, posted a 1.98 ERA last season, racking up 103 strike-outs in the process. Then there’s Jensen-Clagg, who posted a 2.88 ERA in 2015 and led the MAC in wins and strikeouts with eight and 108, respectively. Last season, Ravel put up a 3.13 ERA while going 6-2 in 13 starts and striking out 55 batters while only walking 16. 

Ravel was asked if he had any personal goals for the upcoming season and responded with one word: Omaha (home of the College World Series).

The line-up understands the dominance this rotation can bring to the mound every game. 

“Pitchers are obviously going to go out and do their jobs,” said junior Connor Simonetti. 

With their “skud-train (line-up)” as Simonetti said, to this team, there’s no reason why Omaha is out of the question.

With their self-proclaimed pack-mentality, the thirst is there for the Flashes this season. It’s a complete team, relying on one another and referring to each other as family. At practice, the energy and focus can be seen.

When asked about season goals, every player has repeated what Ravel preaches, “Operation Omaha.” Personal statistics or goals appear unimportant. As Simonetti put it, “the only statistic we’re going to worry about are (wins) and losses. 

Duncan says Virginia will be a great challenge, but said the team is prepared.

Zach Harley is a baseball beat reporter for the Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]