Baseball preview: San Diego

Nick Hamilton, junior infielder, hits the ball during a home game against Youngstown State University on April 11, 2012. The Flashes beat the Penguins 14-4. Photo by Nancy Urchak.


Nick Hamilton, junior infielder, hits the ball during a home game against Youngstown State University on April 11, 2012. The Flashes beat the Penguins 14-4. Photo by Nancy Urchak.

Kevin Battaglia

After a disappointing opening weekend, the Kent State baseball team will try to regroup and get back to its winning ways from a season ago.

Kent State (0-4) will travel to the University of San Diego (0-3) for a four-game series starting at 9 p.m. Friday in San Diego, Calif.

The Flashes are coming off an opening weekend in which Virginia Tech and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington swept them in back-to-back series.

Starting pitcher Tyler Skulina said last weekend provided the team with a wake-up call.

“[Last weekend] kind of brought us back down to where we need to be, off cloud nine from last year,” Skulina said. “It opened our eyes. We need to have the attitude where we’re the underdogs, and we just need to fight back.”

After months of practicing indoors, the team had a hard time adjusting to the outdoor elements.

In four games, the Flashes committed 14 errors and gave too many free bases to batters on the mound. Despite the defense and pitching struggling, the Flashes outhit their opponents for the weekend, batting .301 compared to the opponents’ combined average of .284.

The team also played three games without senior All-American George Roberts, who left the first game Friday with a hand injury. After further evaluation, head coach Scott Stricklin said, Roberts will miss at least six weeks with a broken bone in his left wrist.

“That hurts us, but we all tried to contribute just as much,” catcher Tommy Monnot said. “Hitting-wise we hit pretty well so we just need to carry it over to this weekend.”

Stricklin said now is an opportunity for older players to step up and for the underclassman to gain experience. He also said submitting a lineup sprinkled with younger players means more learning on the job, which will result in some mistakes being made.

Despite the outdoor elements, playing without Roberts and playing with younger players, Stricklin said the team knows it needs to play better and eliminate the little things that can add up to hurt them in a game.

That will start Friday at San Diego.

The Toreros are also coming off an opening weekend in which they dropped three games and were swept at home by in-state rival San Diego State.

The Toreros were outscored 17-6 in the series. They are struggling at the plate as a team, hitting .213 with the bullpen averaging four earned runs per game. They are currently led by junior shortstop Logan Davis, who is hitting an impressive .857 (6-7) at the plate.

The Flashes will pitch Skulina for the first game of the series. He is looking to redeem himself after a rough outing against Virginia Tech in which he uncharacteristically threw five innings, allowing seven runs (three earned) on six hits, striking out five batters while walking four.

Stricklin praised Skulina’s work ethic and leadership, and said Skulina has enough talent to bounce back.

“He’s a legitimate number one [pitcher],” Stricklin said. “I think he’s the best pitcher in our conference. As the next few weeks unfold, you’re going to see him get into a groove and be the All-American we think he is.”

Another Flash who is gaining recognition is Taylor Williams, who was named Mid-American Conference East Division Pitcher of the Week.

The junior college transfer made his Kent State debut Saturday against Wilmington. In his first start, he tossed seven innings, allowing four runs (one earned) on one hit, while striking out five and walking two batters.

“It’s an honor to be named Pitcher of the Week after my first start for Kent State,” Williams said. “Obviously I was just trying to help the team, and it was unfortunate we couldn’t get the win.”

Skulina believes winning the series will help restore the team’s confidence.

“We’re coming in with a chip on our shoulder this weekend,” Skulina said.

Contact Kevin Battaglia at [email protected].