Flashes take season-high streak to Buffalo

Kevin Battaglia

The Kent State baseball team has had its share of ups and downs throughout, what head coach Scott Stricklin is calling, a rollercoaster season.

It might come as a surprise to some to learn the Flashes’ record was 21-15 at this point last year before finishing with a 47-20 record, a Mid-American Conference title and the school’s first College World Series berth.

Kent State (19-16, 9-3 MAC) is playing well at the right time, riding a season-high five-game winning streak as the Flashes head to Buffalo (18-16, 8-4 MAC) for a three game series beginning with a double header at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The Flashes lead the Bulls by one game in the MAC.

“Going into that series, the winning streak doesn’t really matter,” Flashes’ right fielder T.J. Sutton said. “We just want to keep playing the way we have been and keep the same approach. It’s a MAC series and Buffalo is playing really well. If we go in there and keep playing the way we are, I think we’ll be okay.”

Sutton added he believes the biggest difference between last season and this season is that this year’s team is starting to move forward from the success of last season.

“There’s a lot more expectations this year and I think when we came out we were entitled,” Sutton said. “Last year we came out really on fire and really wanting to prove ourselves, but this year we tried to ride the wave from last year a little too much. The way we’ve picked up and played lately it’s a lot better approach than we’ve [seen] the first half of the season so far.”

The series at Buffalo will provide a challenge for the Flashes, who have not lost a game since a 3-2 defeat April 9 at Penn State. Since then, Kent State has outscored its opponents 64-6, thanks in part to aggressive hitting and dominant pitching. The Bulls come into the series having dropped two games in a row at Canisius.

“[The series] is a big one,” Stricklin said. “[Buffalo] coach [Ron] Torgalski’s done a great job with that club. They were better last year and I’ve think they’ve improved this year. It’s going to be tough weather, it’s always a tough place to play and Buffalo’s playing really well.”

Stricklin said the Flashes will try to contain Bulls’ centerfielder Jason Kanzler. The senior is leading the team in most offensive categories batting .336 with 35 RBI and 26 runs on the season.

“He’s a front runner for MAC player of the year,” Stricklin said.

Despite sweeping previous conference-leading Miami last week, Kent State is taking a one game at a time approach.

“That’s our goal — to win every game,” Stricklin said. “[It is an] old cliché, but just take one game, worry about that one, but then move on to the next one.”

Kent State was again presented with another MAC award during the week, marking the seventh time this season.

Flashes’ All-American Tyler Skulina was named MAC East Division Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday. Skulina pitched eight innings while only allowing one hit and added a career-high 10 strikeouts at Miami University Saturday. He became the seventh Kent State player to earn a MAC award this season joining teammates Taylor Williams (2), Sawyer Polen, George Roberts and Sutton.

Roberts was presented with MAC Player of the Week last week and Kent State will challenge for another award next week after catcher Jeff Revesz tied the school record, batting 6-for-6 at the plate in a 21-2 win over Niagara Wednesday night.

Contact Kevin Battaglia at [email protected].