Baseball goes 1-2 over the weekend

Kevin Battaglia

Heading into the weekend, the Kent State baseball team knew they needed to focus on pitching to challenge the fourth-ranked Louisville Cardinals.

After surrendering 24 runs and two losses to start the series, Kent State (2-9) bounced back Sunday to win the finale 3-2 over Louisville (9-2) ending the Cardinals’ nine game win streak.

“Louisville is a really good team. They are a legitimate top ten team in the country,” head coach Scott Stricklin said. “For us to get that win on Sunday is big for our team’s confidence.”

Stricklin said that Louisville is a team he would not be surprised to see in Omaha, Neb., competing for a College World Series in a few months. He added a win against a team as good as the Cardinals this early in the season will help build momentum going forward for a young Flashes’ team still trying to get better and not focused on wins or loses.

The Flashes started pitcher Casey Wilson (1-2) on the mound Sunday to try to contain the Cardinals offense, and Wilson did just that. The senior impressively threw a gem tossing 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits. He also struck out two and walked one batter.

“Casey Wilson was outstanding today,” Stricklin said after the game.

The game did not feature much offense, but had plenty of drama.

In the top of the sixth inning, catcher Tommy Monnot broke a 1-1 tie game with two outs by doubling to score teammates Evan Campbell and Troy Summers. Monnot also played a key role on defense throwing out two Louisville base runners throughout the game. The Cardinals came into the game 8-9 in stolen base attempts against the Flashes.

Sophomore pitcher Brian Clark came into relieve Wilson in the fifth inning. Clark had to use a couple Harry Houdini acts twice, one in the sixth and one seventh inning with Cardinal runners on first and second with one out, to not allow a run. He finished tossing 3 1/3 scoreless innings with five hits. He also surrendered six walks but struck out five batters.

Pitcher Eric Dorsch (1) made his first save in the ninth inning with bases loaded and two outs when he got Cardinals’ catcher Shane Crain to line out to Campbell in centerfield.

Kent State came into the series looking to decrease the number of walks and hit batters issued by pitchers. In the three games, the Flashes’ pitchers surrendered 15 walks and five hit batters. Stricklin said he believes the free passes will be cleaned up once the pitchers have time to practice outside on dirt mounds and cleats.

“I feel like our pitching is still going to be the strength of this team,” Stricklin said. “We feel good about our starting pitching and I think our bullpen is going to be really good.”

The series started with a 14-2 Louisville win on Friday. Junior Tyler Skulina (0-1) struggled and had what Stricklin called “unlucky breaks” on his way to throwing only two innings, allowing 11 earned runs on nine hits. Sophomore Spencer Bryant came in to relieve Skulina for two innings, allowing three earned runs. All 14 of the Cardinals’ runs were earned.

A bright spot for the bullpen was freshman pitcher Nick Jensen-Clagg who came into the game in the fifth inning to relieve Bryant and threw four scoreless innings striking out three batters.

Despite only scoring two runs, the offense was led by second baseman Sawyer Polen, right fielder T.J. Sutton and third baseman Justin Wagler, all who had multi-hit games. The trio hit .700 (7-10) with Polen driving in the two RBI.

The Cardinals’ offense continued over to the second game, which resulted in a 10-3 win. Louisville scored 10 runs (seven earned) but it was their pitching that kept the Flashes in check. Kent State managed to score only three runs on three hits with Sutton having the only multi-hit game for the Flashes. Campbell contributed with two RBIs.

“Louisville pitching staff is very deep and very talented,” Stricklin said.

Kent State will look to continue moving forward with the momentum gained from the win.

The Flashes’ next series will be against the University of North Carolina in Charlotte 4 p.m. Friday in Charlotte, N.C.

Contact Kevin Battaglia at [email protected].