Flashes prevail in Easter weekend series with Buffalo

Richie Mulhall

After the Kent State baseball team leveled the playing field Saturday against Buffalo and evened the series score at one apiece, the Flashes topped the Bulls (17-13, 8-5 MAC) 7-4 to take the three-game series 2-1.

Kent State and Buffalo battled back-and-forth the entire game and went score for score up until the sixth inning when the Flashes pulled away by posting four runs in the inning.

Before the sixth inning, Buffalo’s starting pitcher Mike Burke only gave up one homerun to the Flashes junior infielder Sawyer Polen, but Kent State blew the game wide open with an explosive sixth that was the pivotal moment in the game for the Flashes.

“Those first six innings, their guy threw a gem,” Kent State head coach Jeff Duncan told Kent State Sports.com in a postgame interview. “[Burke] was outstanding. We made a really good adjustment and started getting to him, and we won that game in the sixth inning on, basically. We played really good baseball from then on. It was a good win for us.”

Bad hitting and pitching came back to haunt the Flashes in their first game of the series Friday, but the offense Sunday was alive and well during Sunday’s game, especially in the sixth inning.

Polen, who homered earlier in the game, kicked off the inning with a double to right centerfield. He advanced to third on a Jon Wilson (redshirt senior outfielder) groundout and junior Alex Miklos brought Polen home with a double to left.

Later in the inning, redshirt senior first baseman Cody Koch singed up the middle and stole second before sophomore third baseman Justin Wagler stepped up the plate and cleared the bags when he blasted a shot to dead centerfield for an inside-the-park homerun.

The Bulls tried to battle back in the seventh and brought the lead to within two, but Kent State added a run in the eighth and ninth innings to close the lid on a potential Buffalo comeback. The final two runs were score on a sac fly by Jon Wilson and RBI single by sophomore designated hitter Zarley Zalewski.

Kent State racked up 10 hits in the ball game, but three of them came from Polen.

Polen, who was on fire Sunday afternoon, was a perfect 3-3 from the plate with two runs, an RBI and a homerun.

His last of the day came in the seventh inning on a ground rule double.

“Sawyer Polen was so big for us today,” Duncan said. “To see him go ahead and get us kick-started with that homerun and two doubles really got us going. It was outstanding to see. He works extremely hard.”

Junior starter Brian Clark (4-6, 4.42 ERA) took the hill defensively for the Flashes and had a much better outing against Buffalo this Sunday than his last Sunday’s performance against the Miami Redhwaks.

Last Sunday, Clark went 5.1 innings, giving up seven hits and surrendering four runs in his sixth loss of the season.

This time around, Clark went six innings with four hits, two earned runs, three walks and seven strikeouts.

“Brian Clark had a really good start again,” Duncan said. “That’s good to see. It’s the fifth or sixth start in a row now where he’s been really good. And then our bullpen hung in there, too.

Redshirt junior reliever Michael Clark (2-1, 1.76 ERA), who came on in relief, threw a scoreless inning and a third with two strikeouts, and redshirt junior closer Eric Dorsch (8 saves, 1.59 ERA) came on in the final frame of the game and pitched a spotless 1-2-3 inning to send the Bulls home packing.

“Dorsch did his thing,” Duncan said. “He’s very dominant pitcher, and he’s got unbelievable potential on that mound. It’s good to have him in the back end of the bullpen.”

With Sunday’s victory, the Flashes boosted their record to 25-13 and 10-4 in the MAC. They lead the MAC East Division with a two-game advantage over Akron.

Kent State is now a game back from the overall MAC lead since the Central Michigan Chippewas fell in their series finale this past weekend. Kent State is also only a half game back from Ball State for the overall lead in the conference.

The team will finish its current and longest home stand of the season with a pair of midweek games at Schoonover Stadium. The Flashes will first host Penn State Tuesday at 6 p.m. and then complete the home stand against Malone Wednesday at the same time and place.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].