Baseball sweeps important series versus Bowling Green

Kevin Battaglia

Kent State knew, going into the weekend, that there was no room for error if the Flashes still wanted to win a Mid-American Conference regular season title.

The Flashes (23-20, 12-6 MAC) took care of business in a three-game sweep of Bowling Green (14-23, 8-10 MAC) this weekend at Schoonover Stadium.

“You want to win every game you play,” Flashes head coach Scott Stricklin said. “You have to take one game at a time. It’s an old cliché, but you can’t worry about the entire weekend. You have to win on Friday and then focus on Saturday, and once you win Saturday, you have to get greedy and try to win on Sunday.”

In the series finale, the Flashes used balanced offense and timely pitching to complete the sweep with a 10-7 win. Kent State scored two runs in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings and one run in the seventh and eighth inning.

Bowling Green scored first when TJ Losby hit a home run to left-center field off Flashes pitcher Casey Wilson in the first inning. Kent State responded with two runs when Tommy Monnot grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Toadvine and TJ Sutton followed with a bunt for a base hit with two outs to score Evan Campbell.

“That was all TJ,” Stricklin said. “[Bunting with two outs is] something we talk about all the time with a runner on third base and the third baseman playing back. We’ve tried that a couple times this year, and that’s the first time we’ve executed that.”

In the fifth inning with the Flashes leading 6-4, Alex Miklos made a play that may still have the scorekeeper trying to figure out an official ruling.

With Sutton on first base, Miklos hit a ball to left-center field. After thinking the ball was thrown to home plate to try to throw out Sutton, Miklos ran to third base and was caught in a run down when the throw from Falcons’ shortstop Brian Bien went to third baseman Nick Glanzman.

In confusion during the rundown, Miklos reached third base safely when he realized there was not a Falcons’ player covering the base, then proceeded to run to home plate and score when there was no one covering home plate.

The two-RBI double gave Kent State an 8-4 lead.

“I got myself into a rundown,” Miklos said. “No one was covering third [base], so I ran into third [base] and slid. I’m standing up and Coach [Scott Daeley] gets in my ear and was like, ‘Alex, Alex, go home, go home.’ I turned around and started running home, and no one was there.”

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like that,” Stricklin said. “We were talking about how the heck do you score that? That was a big momentum changer for us, it put us up 8-4, and we needed all those runs.”

Bowling Green put a scare into Kent State when Losbe hit his second homerun of the day, a two-run line drive over the left field fence, to cut the Flashes’ lead to 10-7 in the ninth inning.

“[Bowling Green] doesn’t stop playing,” Stricklin said. “We knew they were going to keep playing.”

Casey Wilson (5-4, 4.36) earned the win and Brian Clark (6) notched the save, while the Falcons’ Trevor Blaylock (0-8, 6.59) received the loss.

Kent State won 3-1 Saturday, when Flashes pitcher Tyler Skulina (3-3, 4.07) threw 7 2/3 innings, allowing one run and striking out nine batters. Clark (5) relieved Skulina to earn his fifth save of the season.

Falcons’ pitcher Mike Frank (3-6, 3.43) was equally impressive as Skulina. Frank finished with eight strike outs in six innings but allowed two runs.

Both runs were surrendered to Flashes’ first baseman George Roberts, who went two for two with two RBI in the game. Roberts singled in Toadvine in the first inning and Sawyer Polen in the fifth inning to give the Flashes a 2-0 lead.

Jason Bagoly gave Kent State an insurance run when he singled in Toadvine in the seventh inning, pushing the Kent State lead to 3-0. The Falcons added a run in the eighth inning when Matt Pitzulo scored on a Brandon Howard groundout.

The Flashes started the series with a 10-4 win Friday. Kent State used a five-run third inning and a three-run fifth inning to put the game away early behind another strong outing from Taylor Williams. Williams (7-1, 2.45) earned his seventh win of the season.

His counterpart Cody Apthorpe (4-3, 2.91) received the loss after he allowed six runs in 2 1/3 innings pitched.

Kent State received production from all over the lineup but the bottom three hitters of the order – Alex Miklos, Zarley Zalewski and Jeff Revesz — combined to hit .454 (5-11) with four RBI.

Buffalo remains in first place in the East Division with a conference record of 13-4. The Flashes’ sweep of the Falcons puts Kent State in second place in overall conference standings, tied with West Division-leader Northern Illinois. The Flashes own the tiebreaker over the Huskies.

“Our goal was to come in here and take three [games] from Bowling Green,” Toadvine said. “We had a pretty rough weekend at Buffalo and the coaches and all of us players weren’t too happy about that so we really tried to focus [on] one game at a time. We have to take care of one game at a time in the MAC now that we’re in a hole and trying to get back to first place.”

The Flashes will next play Eastern Michigan at 5 p.m. Tuesday at All-Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, Ohio.

Contact Kevin Battaglia at [email protected].