Baseball sweeps against Western Michigan

A.J. Atkinson

The Kent State baseball team earned its first three-game sweep this weekend over conference opponent Western Michigan after winning every close-scoring game.

Sophomore Andrew Chafin started on the mound for the Flashes on Wednesday. The southpaw threw seven and two-thirds innings, struck out seven, walked three and allowed one run on seven hits.

Kent State coach Scott Stricklin pulled Chafin in the bottom of the eighth with the Flashes leading 2-1. Senior closing pitcher Justin Gill entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs. Gill recovered by striking out the hitter to end the inning.

“That was a big out for us,” Stricklin said of the final out of the inning. “Justin is a senior and he’s been there before, and that’s why we put him out there in those types of situations. He threw a 3-2 slider with the bases loaded, and it takes a lot of guts to do that.”

The Flashes blew the save opportunity in the ninth inning, as Western Michigan capitalized on the first and only error of the game by junior shortstop Jimmy Rider. The Broncos began the final frame with a leadoff single by Patrick Duncan.

After a sacrifice bunt to put Duncan on second and a strikeout, Gill was looking for the final out of the game. He forced Brad Wehrmeyer to hit the ball to the left side, where Rider was unable to make the play. Duncan advanced to third and scored the tying run on a hit to left field the following at-bat.

Rider made up for his error in the top of the tenth by singling to left field with two outs. Junior Travis Shaw hit in the go-ahead, and eventually game-winning, run following at-bat.

Gill returned to the mound for the final three outs and earned his first win of the season.

“It speaks about our entire team,” Stricklin said. “It was a big win for us because we overcame the adversity that hit us and responded with a win.”

Senior Kyle Hallock started Saturday’s first game. The lefty gave up one run on six hits, struck out five and walked two in eight innings, tying his career high of innings pitched.

As Hallock did his job on the mound, the Flashes did the same at the plate. Junior Joe Koch and freshman Derek Toadvine each singled twice, while sophomore Evan Campbell singled three times and Shaw added a homerun, a double and a single in the Flashes 15 hit, 4-1 win.

“It’s just a confidence thing,” Stricklin said of Shaw leading the offense in Saturday’s first game. “Hitting is contagious; you get a few hits, and they start coming in bunches. He’s too good of a hitter to stay in a slump for very long, so we knew it was just a matter of time.”

Junior David Starn started Saturday’s second game, excelling his seven innings of work. The lefty struck out nine, walked one and gave up one run on six hits in the Flashes 2-1 win.

“Our starting pitching was outstanding today,” Stricklin said of Hallock and Starn. “You can’t ask anything more from those guys. They did their job the entire weekend and deserved to get the wins, no question about it.”

Campbell added to his strong weekend by leading the Flashes with two hits. The centerfielder batted .500 with six hits, a run batted in and a run scored in the series.

The Broncos’ lone run came off Starn in the seventh when pinch hitter Grant Simotes reached on a base hit. He later scored on a single by Martinez. Sophomore Casey Wilson entered the game in the eighth and closed the game in the ninth for his first save of the season.

The Flashes travel to play Penn State at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday before returning to Kent to host Pittsburgh at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Kent State will then return to conference play next weekend by hosting Eastern Michigan for a three-game series.

Contact A.J. Atkinson at [email protected]