Flashes on fire: Surging Kent State baseball team stays hot in three-game sweep of Ohio


Junior Sawyer Polen tags out opponent Trent Pell before throwing the ball to first and making a double play. Kent played a doubleheader game against Oakland University at Schoonover Stadium April 1, 2014. The Flashes won 16-5 in the first game and 16-1 in the second game.

Richie Mulhall

Five in a row — the Kent State baseball team is on fire.

After completing a weekend sweep of the Ohio Bobcats, capping a five-game winning streak, the Flashes now find themselves atop the Mid-American Conference East Division standings. The team is now in sole possession of first place in the division and only a game behind overall in the MAC after Michigan lost to Buffalo on Sunday.

This past weekend, the Flashes swept the Bobcats in three straight games, and they did so dominant fashion, racking up 34 runs overall.

In game one of the doubleheader, Kent State wasted little time jumping out to a commanding lead, as the team has done six times in its last seven games this season.

The team scored two runs in the first and one run in fourth and sixth before blowing the game wide open in the seventh inning.

“That [inning] sealed the deal,” Kent State Coach Jeff Duncan said. “We came out early, scored and then they tried to make a comeback, but we closed the door late in the game.”

The late, seventh-inning push all started when sophomore designated hitter Zarley Zalewski yanked a double down the right field line that scored two to make it a 6-1 game. Two more runs came on Cody Koch single that scored Zalewski and sophomore infielder Justin Wagler.

Hitting was not the only area in which the Flashes excelled in the first game of the series.

Freshman starting pitcher Eric Lauer has been red-hot all season long and continued to flourish against the Bobcats.

He went six innings while giving up four hits, one run, two walks and amassing five strikeouts en route to his seventh win of the season. He has now won his last four starts and shown no signs of slowing down his winning ways.

Duncan said Lauer did not throw his best stuff and struggled with his command from time to time, but he battled through it and got the win.

“He’s a real-deal frontline starter,” Duncan said. “He didn’t have his best stuff [Saturday], but he was still pretty good.”

Game two wasn’t as easy for the Flashes, but the team was still able to put away the Bobcats 5-3 to secure the series win.

The Flashes, who recorded 12 more hits in Saturday night’s matchup, grabbed the early lead in the second inning and continued building up its lead through the fifth inning.

Senior outfielder TJ Sutton went 4-4 on the day and added to Kent State’s lead in the fourth inning when he tripled to right field, and Zalewski and Koch came across to score.

“TJ Sutton has started to swing the bat really well,” Duncan said. “When you have the back of your lineup starting to produce like that, that’s what really gets us rolling.”

The winning pitcher for the Flashes was sophomore starter Nick Jensen-Clagg. Clagg had his best start of the season last week against Oakland and went 6.2 innings with four hits, two walks and seven strikeouts Saturday versus the Bobcats.

Now 2-1, Clagg is beginning to come into his own and might be the catalyst of the starting rotation that the Flashes are looking for as further MAC competition ensues.

“That’s now two quality starts in a row,” Duncan said of Clagg’s recent performances. “When his fastball is on, it makes his off speed stuff so much better.”

On Sunday, the Flashes absolutely exploded — 18 runs in a 19-hit day.

Redshirt-senior outfielder Jon Wilson, whom Duncan called the “sparkplug of the team,” kicked off the game like he often does with a single and made his way around the bases home after an RBI double by fellow junior outfielder Alex Miklos. After the Bobcats turned two and nearly escaped the inning with minimal damage done, Kent State made them pay.

The Flashes will return to action this Tuesday when they travel to Niles to take on its proximate rival Youngstown State in a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].