Flashes baseball looks to improve record with mid-week games

Sophomore+Dan+Kopcak+pitches+on+Saturday%2C+April+6+during+a+6-3+home+loss+to+Ohio%2C+dropping+Kent+States+record+to+13-15+on+the+season.+Photo+by+Shane+Flanigan.

Sophomore Dan Kopcak pitches on Saturday, April 6 during a 6-3 home loss to Ohio, dropping Kent State’s record to 13-15 on the season. Photo by Shane Flanigan.

Kevin Battaglia

The Flashes will play host for a couple of mid-week home games before they head to Buffalo for another Mid-American Conference showdown this weekend.

Kent State (17-16, 9-3 MAC) will have an opportunity to improve their record with two non-conference games against Niagara (12-22, 7-5 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) at 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Schoonover Stadium.

Niagara heads into the games with a three-game winning streak despite their record. The Golden Eagles are coming off a 15-11 win over St. Peter’s College on Sunday. Kent State also owns a three-game winning streak and is fresh off a sweep of the Miami Redhawks last weekend. Kent State stands alone atop the MAC standings.

The match-up should favor Kent State on both offense and defense; however, the Flashes will have to be careful not to overlook Niagara if they want to continue their momentum into the weekend series at Buffalo.

“We always play them every year and they always come in and compete,” Flashes right fielder T.J. Sutton said. “It’s a mid-week game so you really can’t overlook anybody. Whether it’s a weekend game or a mid-week game, it’s still a game, and these are wins we need to keep piling up to stay above .500 and stay on this nice little streak we’ve been on lately.”

The Flashes’ offense is batting .273 and has scored 187 runs, which compares well against a Golden Eagles bullpen owning a 7.45 ERA and surrendering a .311 batting average to opponents. Flashes’ All-American George Roberts has been swinging a hot bat as of late, raising his average to a team-leading .379 average with 19 RBI.

Kent State’s bullpen has shown improvement in recent weeks, dropping its ERA to 4.56 and holding opposing batters to a .249 batting average. The Flashes will most likely continue with head coach Scott Stricklin’s mid-week approach that features using a number of pitchers to have guys prepared for the weekend.

Niagara is batting a mere .248 as a team. Infielder Michael Fuhrman leads the Golden Eagles on offense batting .313, scoring 19 runs and driving in 14 RBI. The only other hitter batting above .300 for Niagara is first baseman Ryan McCauley.

With Niagara coming to Schoonover Stadium for back-to-back games, Sutton sees this as an opportunity for the Flashes to stay focused.

“[The mid-week games] keep us on our mental approach,” Sutton said. “The best thing to do on a streak in baseball is to just keep playing. You don’t want days off. You want to face other teams and keep your eye on winning.”

Contact Kevin Battaglia at [email protected].