Flashes hope for better defense, look to rebound Wednesday after loss to Miami

Junior+infielder+Sawyer+Polen+makes+contact+with+a+pitch+at+the+game+against+Miami+University+Sunday%2C+April+13%2C+2014.+The+Flashes+played+a+three+game+tournament+winning+two+out+of+the+three+games.+They+lost+Sundays+game%2C+4-6.

Junior infielder Sawyer Polen makes contact with a pitch at the game against Miami University Sunday, April 13, 2014. The Flashes played a three game tournament winning two out of the three games. They lost Sunday’s game, 4-6.

Richie Mulhall

Bitter winter weather is projected to return with vengeance Tuesday, and due to the unfavorable forecast, Tuesday’s Kent State baseball game has been canceled.

The team will take a short break from Mid-American Conference action to host The University of Pittsburgh (16-19) Wednesday night at Schoonover Stadium. The game will begin at 6 p.m.

The Flashes (22-12, 9-3 Mid-American Conference), who are now tied with The University of Akron for first place in the MAC East Division after Sunday’s loss, will look to bounce back to their winning ways against the Panthers Wednesday after a tough loss to MAC opponent Miami University Sunday.

In that game, major hiccups on defense cost the Flashes. They went ahead 2-0 after the first three innings, but the wheels fell off in the fourth inning when an error by redshirt senior first baseman Cody Koch put the Redhawks’ leadoff man aboard to start the inning.

Miami went on to tie the game 2-2 after its top half of the inning, but the real trouble for Kent State came in the top of the sixth inning when the Redhawks scored three unearned runs on two hits, two errors and wild pitch.

It was a horrendous inning defensively for the Flashes, and it made all the difference in the ball game.

“We’re a pretty dynamic team both offensively and on the mound, but when you give up free outs like we did [Sunday], that’s what can happen,” Kent State head coach Jeff Duncan said.

Jon Wilson is double and Alex Miklos’ single brought the Flashes within two runs of the lead in the sixth, and Justin Wagler’s solo shot in the eighth made it a 5-4 game.

Kent State battled back into the game, but Miami tagged on another run in the ninth that put the dagger in the Flashes’ comeback.

Duncan commended junior starting pitcher Brian Clark’s effort but expressed his disappointment with Clark’s defensive support; or, at times, lack thereof.

“Unfortunately when [Clark] was on the mound, we mishandled some bunts,” Duncan said. “Brian’s a good pitcher, [the Redhawks] just took advantage of us not executing on plays.”

Clark did not pitch his best Sunday afternoon against the Redhawks, but his bullpen had his back when he left midway through the fifth inning.

Redshirt sophomore reliever Tim Faix came in for redshirt junior Josh Pierce (0-1, 3.38 ERA) and went one and one-third innings with one hit and two strikeouts. Redshirt junior reliever John Fasola followed suit and pitched one inning. He gave up one run on three hits, but he also managed to notch up a strikeout in his brief, one-inning appearance.

“Timmy Faix and Johnny Fasola have been really good all year,” Duncan said after Sunday night’s game. “Minus one bad inning against Wright State, [Faix] has been phenomenal all year. He’s doing well, and I’m happy for him and same thing with Johnny Fasola. He’s another guy who’s dealt with adversity and now here he is doing a good job for us.”

Despite the loss Sunday, there are still a lot of positives to take away for this contending Kent State team.

The team is still in front of the MAC East alongside Akron and leads the league in batting average (.298) and is tied for second in team pitching with 22 wins.

The Flashes have also won 14 of their last 18 games.

“I think we’re feeling good on the pitching end and I think we’re obviously feeling pretty good offensively — we just need to lock down on our defense and just kind of minimize some of those mistakes,” Duncan said. “All in all, I think we’re going in the right direction. I think we just need to continue to get better and better every day.”

With a record just below .500, Pittsburgh will come out fighting for a win Wednesday, just as Miami did Sunday after falling behind 2-0 in its series with the Flashes.

The Panthers are currently riding a nine-game losing streak and will be looking to snap the long streak of bad luck with a much-needed victory.

This past weekend, Pittsburgh was swept by No. 20 Miami in a three-game series in Coral Gables, Fla. According Pittsburgh Panthers.com, the ninth straight loss denotes that Pittsburgh has now been swept in consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference road series this season.

The Flashes hope to get back on track and take advantage of its ACC opponent’s midseason woes Wednesday.

Duncan said he has been working on defense with his team in recent weeks and hopes his team will be able to rectify the mistakes it made in Sunday’s game with a better defensive stand Wednesday.

“We’ve been working on defense all this past week and stressing on defense and playing good, fundamental defense, but ultimately I think that’s gonna come around,” Duncan said. “We just need to continue to work on it.”

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].