Kent State baseball team loses two of three in season opening series

Sophomore infielder Justin Wagler (right) slides into third base at Wednesday’s baseball game against University of Pittsburgh, April 16, 2014. Kent State won the game, 4-1.

Andrew Bugel

The Kent State baseball team (1-2) traveled to Rock Hill, South Carolina to take on Winthrop (2-1) this weekend to kick off the 2015 season.

After dropping their first game Friday, the team split a doubleheader on Saturday to pick up their first win of the year. Sunday’s game was cancelled due to bad weather.

Game 1 — Friday February 13: Winthrop 9, Kent State 1

The Flashes had as many hits as errors in the season opener, committing five errors and giving up six unearned runs, this lead to a blowout loss at Winthrop Ballpark.

Junior starting pitcher Nick Jensen-Clagg took the hill and pitched only five innings, as he gave up four runs in his first outing, only one of them earned. He struck out seven batters while walking six.

Coach Jeff Duncan said he was impressed with Jensen-Clagg’s performance despite the defensive errors throughout the game.

“It’s tough to beat anybody with five errors, but Jensen came out and pitched great for us despite the adversity,” Duncan said. “He was definitely a bright spot for us.”

Senior Dan Kopcak relieved Jensen-Clagg and pitched 1.2 innings in the loss, giving up one earned run and striking out two.

Junior first-basemen Zarley Zalewski recorded two of the five hits for the team. Senior Alex Miklos, along with freshmen Luca Fuscardo and Dylan Rosa, recorded the other three hits for Kent State during the afternoon.

Sophomore Zach Beckner drew in the only run for the team with a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning.

Winthrop did most of the damage in the seventh inning by scoring four runs, three of which were not earned due to errors in the Kent State defense.

Game 2 — Saturday February 14: (Doubleheader Game 1), Winthrop 2, Kent State 1

Offense was not the name of the game during the first game of the doubleheader, as Kent State fell to the Eagles 2-1.

The Flashes took the early lead in the first inning with an Alex Miklos walk when the bases were loaded, but that was it for the team as Winthrop’s pitching held Kent State to just four hits.

Sophomore Andy Ravel got the starting nod in the contest, struck out five and gave up his only run in the sixth inning off an RBI double.

“We stepped up in our second game,” Duncan said. “Our young guys played well and Ravel pitched fantastic for us.

The game was tied going into the eighth inning when Winthrop broke the tie with an RBI single.

Kent State could not mount a charge in the ninth and dropped their second straight game to start the season.

Game 3 — Saturday, February 14: (Doubleheader Game 2), Kent State 9, Winthrop 5

Kent State picked up its first win and got some offense in the second game of their doubleheader with Winthrop Saturday afternoon.

Three runs in the sixth and eighth innings allowed Kent State to pull away for a 9-5 victory.

Zalewski scored the game’s first run in the third inning with an RBI single.

Junior Luke Burch and senior Jacob Neuschaefer along with Beckner all recorded RBI singles in the sixth inning to take a 4-0 lead.

However, Winthrop did make a comeback in the seventh by scoring three runs off of senior relief pitcher John Birkbeck, cutting the Kent State lead to 4-3.

The Flashes prevailed in the eighth inning when senior Sawyer Polen hit a two-run double and Kent State never looked back.

Neuschaefer added two more runs in the ninth to record three RBI for the game.

He ended the game going 4-4 at the plate and stole three bases.

“(Neuschaefer) had about as good a game as you could have,” Duncan said. “Our young guys stepped up and played well for us.”

Duncan said dropping two of three to start the season wasn’t good, but there were positive things to take away from the opening series.

“We may have lost two of three but we improved a little in every aspect each game,” Duncan said. “When we take on Baylor next week, we are going to give them a battle.”

Kent State will play a three-game series against Baylor starting Friday in Waco, Texas.

Contact Andrew Bugel at [email protected].