Kent State baseball breezes past Chippewas to advance in MAC Tournament

Junior infielder Derek Toadvine slides to second base against Central Michigan during the first round of the Mid American Conference Championship tournament at the All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, OH on May 23; 2013. The Flashes beat Central Michigan, 15 – 8, and will face Ball State on Thursday, May 24 at 4 p.m. Photo by Matt Hafley.

Tim Dorst

The Kent State baseball team went into the 2013 Mid-American Conference tournament with the No. 1 seed and in search of its fifth straight tournament championship. Riding a seven-game winning streak, the Flashes opened up their tournament run against the eighth-seeded Central Michigan Chippewas and continued their hot play as of late with a decisive first-round win.

The Flashes powered past the Chippewas 15-8 Wednesday night at All-Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, Ohio to advance to the second round of the MAC Tournament. Kent State won its eighth straight game overall this season and its seventh straight conference tournament game dating back to the 2011 season.

Kent State jumped ahead early in the evening, scoring nine of its 15 runs in the first two innings. To head coach Scott Stricklin, it felt good to see his team’s offense explode the way it did to start off the tournament.

“We haven’t scored 15 runs in a long time,” Stricklin said. “We had some great at-bats today and really put pressure on [the Chippewas]. That’s what we’re trying to do early on, just trying to score as many runs as we can and save our bullpen a little.”

Six players recorded multi-hit games for the Flashes (35-21), but the night seemingly belonged to freshman third baseman Justin Wagler. Starting in place of injured freshman Zarley Zalewski, Wagler made his first tournament game a memorable one going 3-for-4 with five RBIs and two runs scored.

Wagler capped off his night with a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning, his second of the season and first of the game for the Flashes

The Flashes also got a strong push from junior second baseman Derek Toadvine, who reached base four times in the game, stole three bases and scored a pair of runs. Toadvine scored the team’s first run of the game in the first inning off a sacrifice fly by senior center fielder Evan Campbell.

An single by sophomore left fielder Alex Miklos allowed the Flashes to score another run in the bottom of the first, and Wagler drove in Miklos and junior right fielder T.J. Sutton with a single up the middle.

Kent State extended its lead with a five-run second-inning, highlighted by RBI singles from Campbell and senior first baseman George Roberts. The Flashes tagged Chippewas’ starting pitcher Jordan Foley for eight earned runs on five hits in just 1 1/3 innings of work.

Junior right-handed pitcher Taylor Williams had a stellar outing for Kent State as he kept Central Michigan in check for his 10th win of the season. Williams pitched six innings, allowed three runs on seven hits and recorded a game-high 10 strikeouts.

Williams struggled with his command in the first few innings but was able to settle in and control the game for much of his outing.

“I thought he really battled out there,” Stricklin said. “He didn’t have his best stuff early on, but with 10 strikeouts and one walk, you’ll take that every time. That’s what he does. He just competes.”

The Flashes added to their lead in the bottom halves of the fourth and five innings. Wagler drove in senior designated hitter Jason Bagoly with a double into the gap in left center field and scored on a single to center by Toadvine. In the fifth, Sutton hit a line-drive RBI single to center field, making the score 12-2.

Trailing 15-4 in the top of the ninth and facing their final three outs, the Chippewas made one last push for a comeback. A two-run home run smashed over the left field wall by third baseman Morgan Oliver was followed by a walk and a single. Designated hitter Jordan Adams and left fielder Cody Leichman hit back-to-back RBI singles for the third and fourth runs of the inning with just one out.

Kent State then turned to right-hander pitcher Jason Revesz, and the redshirt freshman managed to get the last two outs to finish off the game.

The Flashes will square off against the Ball State Cardinals in the second round of the MAC Tournament scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m. Thursday.

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].