On the road again: Kent State baseball travels to face Bowling Green this weekend

Richie Mulhall

The Kent State baseball team capped a four-game win streak at the conclusion of a nine-game home stand with a 7-6 edge over Malone Wednesday night.

The Flashes (27-13, 11-4 Mid-American Conference) went 7-2 during the home stand and improved their record to 27-13 on the season with the win against Malone.

The win did not come without its blemishes. As a team, Kent State committed three errors and would have allowed Malone to run away with the game had it not been for another strong offensive performance.

The fourth inning was nearly disastrous for the Flashes. Malone tallied three unearned runs that came on two bunt singles, a passed ball, two throwing errors and a sacrifice fly.

In the fifth inning the tide turned for the Flashes. Redshirt-freshman third baseman Curtis Olvey came through in the clutch for his team and slapped a two-run double to score redshirt-senior first baseman Cody Koch and junior infielder Sawyer Polen to win the game 7-6.

Olvey was not the only Kent State player who hasn’t played in a while to produce for his team Wednesday night. True freshman first baseman Conner Simonetti, who had not seen the field since April 6 in Athens versus Ohio, got some solid playing time and even led the team in hits with two double and an RBI in four at-bats.

“The guys who haven’t played in a while, I was really impressed by how they played,” Kent State head coach Jeff Duncan told Kent State.

Now that Kent State’s home stand has finally come to an end, the team will prepare to pack their bags for the first time since April 8 and head to Bowling Green for a three game in-conference series with the Falcons.

“We’re used to the road now, especially at the start of the season,” Duncan said. “Our first five games we’re going south and having to play on the road. Yeah we’d much rather play at home and it was a good home stand for us, but we’ll be ready to go for the Bowling Green weekend up there.”

Bowling Green is currently 17-19 with a below-.500 overall record thus far this season, but statisticians and fans alike must not be deceived by its record. Kent State will have its first really daunting task this weekend in a long time, as the Falcons definitely pose a viable threat to the Flashes this weekend and have the potential to knock Kent State out of first place in the MAC East Division.

“They’re playing somewhat pretty well,” Duncan said of Bowling Green. “This park will be very offensive. A lot of times, the wind blows out, which really plays in for us because our offense has been really good.”

Duncan also said pitching coach John Birkbeck said this surging Bowling Green team always seems to get hot when it plays Kent State.

The Falcons have undoubtedly has been on a tear over the past few weeks. They have won eight of their last 11 and are currently riding a five-game winning streak.

It was also thanks to Bowling Green that the Flashes were able to pull away from Akron a little bit with their advantage in the division. This past weekend, Bowling Green came into Lee R. Jackson field and completed a clean sweep of Akron.

The Flashes will have to maintain their composure on the field and keep their defensive lapses in check if they want to take the series against Bowling Green this weekend, or they will otherwise become the next victims of the Falcons’ impressive win streak.

Duncan said he is not so worried about the defense as Wednesday night’s defensive performance would lead some to believe.

“We played a different lineup [Wednesday] night,” Duncan said. “We had a lot of players playing different roles, so I feel comfortable with our defense. I think we’ve emphasized it here in the last two weeks, and basically little stupid errors, focus errors.”

Duncan said his team needs to go into Bowling Green and play its game, and not let the opponent dictate the tempo.

“It’s not like when Buffalo had those three really good starters [last weekend],” Duncan said. “I feel like that kind of stunned our offense just a little bit to where we had to make so many adjustments in that Buffalo series that we just gotta get back to being the offense that we are and get back to [hitting that] fastball efficiently. We’ve been playing the breaking ball and the fastball, and we just gotta make sure we get back on the fastball and then adjust everything else, and I think we’ll click again.”

Duncan said the biggest thing for his team to start the series Friday will be starting pitcher Eric Lauer’s performance.

“I’m really intrigued to see how he bounces back from last week,” Duncan said.

The freshman’s last outing last time against Buffalo April 18 certainly was not his best. He only went three and two-thirds innings and gave up five hits and three runs in that short span of time.

Duncan stressed that if the Flashes can get a good quality start from Lauer Friday, the team will be golden the rest of the weekend.

Kent State’s versatility on both sides of the ball will be able to do the rest.

“We’re a very dynamic team,” Duncan said. “We can win in a lot of ways. We can win a pitching dual, we can outslug somebody, and I feel good about it. We just need to continue to stay in the process and stay focused.”

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].