Flashes baseball loses to Ball State, avoid elimination with win over Miami

Tim Dorst

Heavy rain forced Kent State’s second round matchup against the Ball State Cardinals Thursday to be postponed, putting the Mid-American Conference baseball tournament off-schedule. Because of the circumstances, the Flashes had to withstand two big challenges in order to remain in the hunt for another conference championship.

After falling to the Cardinals 3-1 Friday morning in Avon, Ohio, Kent State defeated the Miami Redhawks 7-0 in a consolation game later in the day to remain in the MAC Tournament and advance to Saturday’s bracket.

The Flashes (36-22) were plagued by fielding mistakes early in their game against the Cardinals, which lead to them falling behind.

In the top of the second inning, Ball State’s first two batters reached on errors by freshman third baseman Justin Wagler and sophomore shortstop Sawyer Polen. Cardinals starting pitcher T.J. Weir, batting at the No. 7 spot, reached base on a fielder’s choice and drove in his team’s first run of the game.

Weir did his part on the pitching mound to keep the Cardinals in the lead while keeping Kent State hitters off balance for much of the game. The right-hander finished with a complete game, giving up just one run on seven hits and striking out seven.

The Flashes came close to tying the game on two separate occasions, but their efforts were stifled both times by great defensive plays from the Cardinals. With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, junior right fielder T.J. Sutton attempted to drive in the tying runs with a sacrifice fly.

Ball State right fielder Sean Godfrey caught Sutton’s fly ball for the out while senior center fielder Evan Campbell tried to score from third. Godfrey rocketed the ball from the outfield to catcher Sam Tidaback, who tagged Campbell out at the plate for the double play. The inning ended shortly after, and Kent State did not score.

In the sixth inning, Polen reached base with a double and advanced to third on a fly ball. Senior first baseman George Roberts then hit a ground ball to the shortstop, who threw home to nail Polen coming to the plate and keep the Flashes off the scoreboard again.

Kent State put up their only run of the game in the ninth inning on a sacrifice fly by senior designated hitter Jason Bagoly. With two on base and two outs, sophomore catcher Tommy Monnot grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game.

The Flashes went on to an elimination game Friday afternoon against the Redhawks, who had defeated the Central Michigan Chippewas earlier in the day. Runs came much easier for the Flashes in this game as they got off to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.

Junior second baseman Derek Toadvine had a performance Friday that mirrored his game against the Chippewas from Wednesday night. Toadvine went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and three stolen bases, bringing his season total to 29.

After Toadvine scored the first two runs of the game, the Flashes started to open up a lead in the third inning. Bagoly walked with the bases loaded to force in a run, and Sutton singled to right field to drive in Campbell.

Wagler capped off the five-run inning with a line drive to right center field, driving in a pair of runs.

Head coach Scott Stricklin said the players took advantage of the walks and free bases they drew and made the best of their opportunities in the second game.

“I thought we had great at-bats today,” Sticklin said. “We even made some loud outs. It was encouraging to see us hit like that. It’s frustrating when you watched it in the morning not be there and then all of a sudden it’s there, but that’s just how baseball is. We’ve just got to put that behind us. You can’t hit the rewind button.”

Senior right-handed pitcher Casey Wilson put together one of the best outings of his career when his team needed it the most. Wilson recorded his first complete game shutout of the season, striking out three Redhawks batters and walking only one.

“You can’t ask for anything more than that,” Stricklin said. “We needed our bullpen to stay fresh to be able to get to tomorrow, so the only way we can do that is to have great pitching performances.”

Wilson knew going into the game that the Flashes needed a strong performance from him on the mound, and he said we was prepared for it.

“Coach Stricklin said he needed someone to step up to save our bullpen and get through the game,” Wilson said. “Since we lost that first game it was a tough one. But we needed someone to step up, and I guess it was me.”

Wilson improved his record this season to 7-4 while Miami starter Nathan Williams was pulled in the third inning after giving up six runs on six hits and received his sixth loss.

Kent State will now look to advance further in the MAC Tournament when they face Ball State in a rematch beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. Stricklin said the Flashes will need to leave their earlier lost to the Cardinals in the past and focus on the rest of the tournament.

“We can’t take it back,” Stricklin said. “We have to just deal with what we have and get ready to win two game tomorrow.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].