Flashes hold off Gators, stay alive in College World Series

Right+fielder+T.J.+Sutton+stands+proudly+after+catching+the+last+ball+of+the+game+securing+the+Flashes+first+victory+over+Florida%2C+5-4%2C+in+the+College+World+Series+in+Omaha%2C+Neb.%2C+Monday%2C+June+18+at+TD+Ameritrade+Park.+.+Photo+by+Philip+Botta.

Right fielder T.J. Sutton stands proudly after catching the last ball of the game securing the Flashes first victory over Florida, 5-4, in the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., Monday, June 18 at TD Ameritrade Park. . Photo by Philip Botta.

Matt Lofgren

David beats Goliath

It wasn’t supposed to happen.

A small, midwest school isn’t going to go to the College World Series. That school isn’t going to win a game in Omaha.

Little Cinderella can’t beat the number one team in the nation.

Don’t tell that to the nine hitters and five pitchers who just put the world on their backs and shocked the nation.

The Kent State Golden Flashes topped the Florida Gators, the number one team in the nation, 5-4 on Monday to keep the hopes of a national championship alive.

“It’s a huge win for our program and our university and all of northeast Ohio,” head coach Scott Stricklin said. “I don’t think people gave us much of a chance today, but there are 27 players, five coaches and a lot of fans that believed we could win.”

The “gut-wrenching” win, as Stricklin called it, could have also been called a “heart stopper” then quickly changed to a “cholesterol clearer.”

With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the ninth inning, the Kent State pitchers could not throw a strike. Finally, the Flashes’ fifth pitcher of the game and second of the inning, Josh Pierce, stepped in and threw three straight balls.

The air at TD Ameritrade Park was sucked out all at once, but not out of Pierce. Throwing two straight strikes, Pierce threw a ball right over the plate to Florida’s Casey Turgeon on a nail biting pitch that Turgeon check-swung at.

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“I saw a full swing, everyone else saw it too, especially on the third base side,” Stricklin said. “I don’t know if the home plate umpire blinked — I’m surprised he didn’t call it. And it worried me, and I jumped out there because he didn’t react right away.”

Finally the third base umpire signaled out and the Flashes were just one out away from continuing what has become a dream season. One pitch later, the Gators’ Justin Shafer hit a towering fly to right fielder T.J. Sutton.

“That last inning was really never racking when your pitchers aren’t throwing strikes, and you know that you’ve got those guys coming up and that order is unbelievably strong,” Stricklin said. “The ball went up in the air, I knew it was an out, so I think I said, ‘Look what we have here’ as soon as it went up, and that’s the same way that we won against Kentucky, fly ball to right field to T.J. Sutton and just an exhilarating feeling.”

When the dust cleared, starting pitcher Ryan Bores got the win to improve to 10-2 this season and 2-0 this post season.

With the help of his defense, Bores kept the Gators in check for six innings and gave up two runs on six hits with a strike out.

“I threw good pitches — tried to keep them on the ground and up in the air a bit today,” Bores said. “Also [Evan] Campbell’s catch was a good catch.”

The catch Bores talked about was a diving grab in the sixth inning by centerfielder Campbell that preserved the three-run lead at the time.

Bold move pays off

His name wasn’t held up in bright lights after the big win. He wasn’t the MVP of the game — but Jason Bagoly was the Flashes hero Monday night.

Bagoly stepped up and into the designated hitters spot over Nick Hamilton for the game to make his first appearance in the College World Series. The move paid off as Bagoly crossed the plate in the big three-run second inning.

He finished the day 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and a run scored.

But Bagoly won’t be getting his starting job back for Wednesday’s matchup against the loser of the South Carolina-Arkansas game because he will be back home to attend his mother funeral after her sudden death last Thursday.

Stricklin and players got chocked up at the thought of Bagoly’s week, but they knew that he is the type of player that doesn’t let his family or his team down.

“This has been a very difficult few days for our program,” Stricklin said while fighting off tears. “I can’t even imagine what it has been like for Jason. The last couple of nights I had really been wrestling with the decision of — I was really disappointed in myself that I didn’t get him an at-bat last Saturday. He was on deck when the game ended, and I should have had him bat second or third that inning, and I was really disappointed he didn’t get that at bat.”

Stricklin went on to say, “It gave our team a lift, it really did. His first at bat, to battle like he did and get that base hit off Crawford, it was unbelievable.”

Follow @MLofgrenDKS for more updates from Omaha, and tweet at us using #FlashesCWS.

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected].