Flashes baseball’s tournament ends with loss to Ball State

Tim Dorst

In 2012, the Kent State baseball team swept through the Mid-American Conference tournament and advanced to the College World Series for the first time in program history. While they only won one game when they arrived there, the Flashes eliminated the University of Florida Gators, the No. 1 team in the nation at the time, and finished among the top five teams.

The 2013 Flashes came into this year’s conference tournament hoping to duplicate the success they achieved last season. Unfortunately for them, this season did not yield the same results that the they saw a year ago.

Kent State’s season came to an close after a 4-1 loss to the Ball State Cardinals Saturday at All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, Ohio, ending the Flashes’ streak of tournament championships at four straight.

It was the Flashes’ second loss in the double-elimination style tournament, both coming against the Cardinals in consecutive days.

After competing twice on Friday to advance to the bracket on Saturday, Kent State took a 1-0 lead over the Cardinals in the top of the fourth inning on an RBI single by junior right fielder T.J. Sutton that drove in senior first baseman George Roberts.

Freshman right handed pitcher Nick Jensen-Clagg had done a solid job up to that point keeping the Cardinals off of the scoreboard and giving his team the opportunity to take control of the game. Head coach Scott Stricklin said Jensen-Clagg did everything he could to put the Flashes in a position to win.

“We just couldn’t score runs,” Stricklin said. “Offensively, we couldn’t make anything happen.”

Ball State came back to tie the game in the bottom half of the fifth inning when shortstop Elbert DeVarie drove in a run with a single up the middle off of Jensen-Clegg. The Cardinals plated two more runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 3-1 lead.

The freshman right-hander left the game with one out in the sixth after giving up two runs on six hits and striking out four in 5 1/3 innings.

The Flashes failed to get key base hits with runners in scoring position for much of the game, leaving 12 runners stranded on base. Ball State starting pitcher Chris Marangon went eight innings and relinquished one run on six hits to earn the victory.

Kent State made one final push in the ninth inning down by three runs. Junior Cody Koch came into the game as a pinch hitter and drew a walk, but sophomore catcher Tommy Monnot grounded into a double play on the very next at-bat.

Junior second baseman Derek Toadvine and sophomore shortstop Sawyer Polen hit back-to-back two-out singles to bring the potential tying run to the plate, prompting a pitching change by the Cardinals. Senior center fielder Evan Campbell walked to load the bases, and the Cardinals once again made a call to the bullpen to bring in right handed pitcher Scott Baker.

Roberts represented the go-ahead run as he stepped to the plate against Baker, but the senior hit a ground ball to the shortstop for the force-out at second base to end the game and the Flashes’s season.

Roberts and Campbell, along with fellow seniors Casey Wilson and Jason Bagoly, played their last game with Kent State, and the ending of their college careers was not quite what they had expected. Despite the disappointing loss, Stricklin said he still feels a high level of pride for his players and for the way they continued to compete hard in the face of elimination.

“I’m proud of every single member on this team, especially our four seniors,” Stricklin said. “They got us to this point, and we had a chance up until the last hitter to win the game. The expectations that were on this team, it’s a heavy load to carry around. For whatever reason, we just came up a little short.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].