Kent State drops first two games on baseball opening day

Kevin Battaglia

A day that started in so much anticipation and promise ended in defeat for the Kent State baseball team.

The Flashes (0-2), fresh off the program’s first College World Series appearance, opened the 2013 season Friday in Wilmington, N.C. by losing both games of a doubleheader to Virginia Tech, 10-9, and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, 7-6.

Before the first game, Kent State head coach Scott Stricklin stressed that he was most concerned about the lack of practice time his team had outside. The Flashes finished the two games Friday with a combined total of nine errors.

The first game featured a pitching match-up of two aces, Kent State junior Tyler Skulina against Virginia Tech senior Joe Mantiply.

Both pitchers struggled as neither made it past the fifth inning.

In those five innings, offense was plentiful as the two teams combined to produce 12 runs.

Skulina finished with five innings pitched, allowing seven runs (three earned) on six hits and two home runs. He also threw for five strikeouts while walking four batters.

Mantiply threw just four innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits. He struck out and walked one batter each.

Kent State played from behind all game, committing untimely errors but keeping the game within reach with their bats.

The Flashes would go from being down in the second inning, 6-1, to tying the game in the bottom of the eighth, 7-7, on a two-run error by Virginia Tech. However, the Hokies would answer with three runs in the top of the ninth.

The Flashes’ offense was due mostly in part to shortstop Derek Toadvine and left fielder Alex Miklos. The two players combined to hit .600 (6 for 10) at the plate, scoring five runs while driving in four runs . The big hit came in the bottom of the ninth when Miklos belted a two-run home run over the left-center field wall to bring the Flashes within one, 10-9, before the game ended in a groundout securing a Hokies’ victory.

Hokies pitcher Jake Joyce (1-0) earned the win and Clark Labitan the save (1), while the Flashes’ Josh Pierce (0-1) received the loss.

Unfortunately for Kent State, they may have lost more than the game. Senior All-American George Roberts was removed from the game in the top of the sixth inning and did not play in the second game of the day. Roberts was diagnosed with a possible pinched nerve in his hand.

While the first game featured plenty of offense, the second game versus UNC Wilmington was more about defense.

Junior college transfer Taylor Williams made his Kent State debut in impressive fashion. Williams made timely pitch after timely pitch, dominating Seahawk batters while taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

Williams tossed seven innings, allowing four runs (one earned) and giving up one hit while striking out five batters and only walking one.

Seahawks starting pitcher Mat Batts was just as effective. He kept the Flashes’ offense in line for four innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and throwing for seven strikeouts and three walks.

Despite the strong outing from Williams, the Flashes couldn’t pull off the victory.

Kent State recorded six errors in the field but held a 6-4 lead until the bottom of the ninth. In the ninth inning the Seahawks scored two runs off Flashes’ closer Eric Dorsch to force extra innings. Tyler Molinaro led off the bottom of the tenth with a walk-off home run to center field, ending the night with a 7-6 win.

The winning pitcher was Ricky Holden (1-0) for the Seahawks, while Dorsch (0-1) was given the loss.

Catcher Tommy Monnot, Miklos and third baseman Zarley Zalewski provided the offense for Kent State. Monnot went 3 for 6 from the plate, and Miklos added another solid game, going 1 for 3 with two RBI and two walks. Zalewski, a freshman also making his Flashes debut, went 4 for 5 from the plate and added a run.

The Flashes will try to regroup from a loss in which they held the Seahawks to just three hits, and a day in which they dropped two games by a combined two runs.

For the Flashes, tomorrow brings a new day as the team will play against Virginia Tech at 11 a.m. The game can be heard on the Golden Flashes Radio Network on iHeart Radio.