Flashes stay hot in first game of doubleheader, fall in second against YSU


Junior John Birkbeck pitches the ball against Oakland University in the doubleheader game at Schoonover Stadium, April 1, 2014.

Richie Mulhall

Box score – Game 1

Box score – Game 2

Fresh off its second straight victory and 19th win of season against Ohio, the sizzling Kent State baseball team (20-11, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) hoped to stay sharp Tuesday in its seven-inning doubleheader with its regional rival Youngstown State (5-21).

In the first game of the 14-inning contest, the boys from Youngstown came out and stunned the Flashes throughout the majority of the ball game.

A 4-20 team, the Penguins’ play sure didn’t reflect their record.

 After Kent State took an early 2-0 lead in the top half of the first inning thanks to a hit, the Penguins retaliated by scoring two runs of their own in the bottom half of the same inning.

As the game continued, it became clear that it was going to be a tit-for-tat game, with both teams attempting to out-do each other inning-by-inning.

“It was a back-and-forth kind of game,” Kent State Coach Jeff Duncan said. “We put two up and they put two, and it was for the most part a pretty good baseball game. They played us really tough both games.”

After Kent State recorded a three-up, three-down inning on offense in the second, Youngstown State capitalized and scored an unearned run in second to make it a 3-2 game, advantage Penguins.

Kent State starting pitcher John Birkbeck, who gave up four runs (one run was unearned) with five hits, a walk and two strikeouts, only saw three innings of work before Andy Ravel came in the game in the fourth to relieve him.

In the fifth, after Youngstown scored in the fourth on a couple of wild pitches, the Flashes got on the board again when junior catcher Jeff Revesz doubled down the left-field line to score freshman infielder Zach Beckner.

The Flashes struck again in the same inning when Miklos smacked an RBI double down the left-field line, allowing Revesz to trot in for the score.

Not to be surpassed by their opponent, the Penguins bounced back and scored a couple runs to claim a 6-4 lead after five.

It was not until the seventh inning that the Flashes’ bats exploded and blew the game wide open, just as they have in their past two series against Oakland and Ohio.

The rally all started when junior outfielder Alex Miklos and sophomore infielder Justin Wagler reached on back-to-back singles to left field.

Zalewski followed and struck out, but fortunately for the Flashes, Miklos and Wagler were able to steal third and second, respectively, during Zalewski’s at-bat.

With one out and runners in scoring position, senior first baseman Cody Koch ripped an RBI single to center field, scoring Miklos and Wagler.

When seventh-inning smoke finally cleared, Kent State scored six runs on seven hits and one Youngstown State error to take a commanding 11-7 lead.

“We had a good approach that whole first game,” Duncan said. “We hit some balls hard really early, and then in the seventh inning, we ran the bases really well and took advantage of that. We got some guys in scoring position and were able to get key hits.

The rematch game followed 40 minutes later, and the Flashes attacked first in the top of the third inning.

Beckner kicked off the inning with a free pass to first base, followed by a single by Wilson that advanced him to second.

Miklos stepped up to the plate again and slapped an RBI double to left that allowed Beckner and Wilson to score from third and second, respectively — 2-0 Flashes.

Kent State did not have as many runs as it did in the first game, but what the team lacked in hitting, it more than made up for on the mound.

Starting pitcher Michael Clark, who has come out of the Flashes’ bullpen the majority of the season with only two prior starts, went five solid innings in arguably his best outing of the season.

He surrendered no runs, only gave up two hits and racked up 12 strikeouts — not too shabby for a guy who only had 14 total strikeouts before Tuesday’s game.

“It was his best outing he’s had all year,” Duncan said of Clark’s performance. “He was tremendous.”

It was smooth sailing for the Flashes until their lead took a major nosedive in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Once Kent State took out Clark, who was red-hot through five innings of work on the hill, and put in relief pitcher and redshirt sophomore Eli Martin, the tide drastically turned against the Flashes, and their lead quickly deteriorated.

Martin came into the game and immediately hit two batters — it all went downhill from there.

Redshirt junior Josh Pierce then came into the game for Martin and gave up five runs in only one inning of work.

There was not a whole lot of offensive action in the second game, but Youngstown State changed that in inning when the team exploded to score all seven runs on only three hits and two errors by Kent State.

Duncan said his team could have gotten out of the inning a lot earlier than it did, but a costly error by Polen at shortstop took a potential double play out of the equation and no play or out on a bunted ball later in the inning extended the inning.  

“We just didn’t execute,” Duncan said about the team’s sixth-inning blunders. “We should have been out of that inning. We couldn’t do anything right, and then the wheels just kind of fell off.”

The top of the order was due up for Kent State to start the seventh, but the combination of Wilson, Miklos, Wagler and Zalewski could produce was a walk as the Flashes fell 7-4 to the Penguins.

Kent State will now return home to Schoonover Stadium for a 10-game home stand, the team’s longest of the season. The Flashes will first host Miami this weekend for a three-game MAC series, beginning this Friday at 6 p.m.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].