Baseball team optimistic about 2015 season


Junior infielder Sawyer Pollen is tagged out trying to score the game tying run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth at the game against Northern Illinois Saturday, May 3, 2014. The Flashes lost 6-5.

Andrew Bugel

The Kent State baseball team finished strong in 2014 (36-23, 16-11 M.A.C.) under coach Jeff Duncan’s first tenure, and is only hoping to improve going into 2015.

With a strong core of veterans sprinkled with a crop of young talent, Duncan said the sky’s the limit for the Flashes, who start their new season Friday.

“Our guys have worked hard during the off-season,” Duncan said. “We have a good blend of experience from last year and I love the chemistry that we have on this team.”

Pitching staff

The pitching staff has a good trio in junior two-time letter winner Nick Jensen-Clagg (4.50 ERA in 2014), sophomore Andy Ravel (2.78 ERA) and sophomore left-hander Eric Lauer (3.26 ERA).

“We feel really comfortable with Nick,” Duncan said. “He is a heck of a competitor, and brings some experience and success going into the season.”

Ravel, who will pitch Saturdays, is coming off ankle surgery after a strong performance as a freshman, and Lauer should be a contributor if he can stay healthy.

Duncan said he also expects the bullpen to be solid. Senior Dan Kopcak will anchor the relievers, and freshman Zach Willeman appears to be the closer heading into the season.

“(Willeman) has a fastball in the 90’s and a devastating breaking ball,” Duncan said. “He will see a lot of time.”


Sophomore outfielder Luke Burch is entering his first year playing Division-1 ball and is expected to be the team’s leadoff hitter. Burch played a season at Ashland University, where the Eagles won a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.

“The kid has wheels,” Duncan said. “He can fly, and we are very exciting to see him leadoff for us.”

Senior Alex Miklos will hit third in the order and play centerfield. Duncan said Miklos is a contender for MAC Player of the Year heading into the new season, but is also coming off a knee injury.

Sophomore Connor Simonetti will also play an outfield position, primarily right field. Simonetti saw limited action last season as a freshman.


The infield is comprised of big bats and strong defensive play.

Duncan said freshman Dylan Rosa, who will play third base, is a very physical athlete and should contribute to the team very effectively.

Meanwhile, junior designated hitter Zarley Zalewski is expected to bring a powerful bat into the lineup heading into the season. Zalewski, a Pennsylvania native, contributed nicely hitting .351 while registering 42 RBI.

Seniors Tommy Monnot and Jeff Revesz will alternate at the catcher position. Revesz played 43 games last season while driving in 24 runs, and Monnot played in 27 games a season ago.

Redshirt sophomore Curtis Olvey is expected to provide depth to an already impressive lineup. Olvey had a .363 on-base percentage from a year ago while playing infield.

Senior shortstop Sawyer Polen is back after suffering a season-ending illness. Polen is one of the anchors on the infield and Duncan expects him to have a solid season.

“He is one of the team captains,” Duncan said. “He’s reliable and very strong offensively.”

Sophomore Zach Beckner is also back. Beckner took over full-time at shortstop after Polen was lost for the season. He hit .252 while playing in 47 games as a freshman and drove in 21 runs. Beckner will be the starting second baseman.

“Zach is extremely talented,” Duncan said. “He has good hands, and can just flat-out run.”

The team is preparing for their first series starting Friday against Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

“We have goals to achieve at a high-level this season,” Duncan said. “We are going into the season with the mindset that we need to win one pitch at a time.”

Contact Andrew Bugel at [email protected].