Baseball team looks to extend winning streak


Sophomore catcher David Lyon shows the umpire the ball after tagging a runner out to end the eighth inning during the Flashes’ 5-4 win against Ohio University Friday. Photo by Tessa Bargainnier.

A.J. Atkinson

Kent State vs. Central Michigan

April 15-20

Friday: 3:05 p.m.

Saturday: 2:05 p.m.

Sunday: 1:05 p.m.

The Kent State baseball team returns to Mid-American Conference play this weekend as the Flashes travel to Central Michigan with hopes of capitalizing on the Chippewas’ defensive troubles and extend their 11-game win streak.

The two teams post similar lineups. Both teams’ strength is the pitching staffs, and their offensive numbers don’t match up.

The difference is the fielding.

The Chippewas (16-17 overall, 5-4 MAC) are second to last in the MAC in fielding percentage, committing 72 errors in 33 games. The Flashes (22-10 overall, 8-1 MAC) lead the MAC in fielding, committing just 30 errors in 30 games.

“They struggle a little bit defensively and that’s what we’re going to have to try and exploit,” said Scott Stricklin, Kent State coach. “We’re going to have to try and make them make plays in the field.”

Although the Flashes did not play their best against Youngstown, Stricklin said he has no worries about this weekend’s conference series.

“Midweek games are tougher to get yourself mentally prepared for,” Stricklin said. “I don’t think our guys will have a problem getting up emotionally for these games.

“First place is on the line, and this is a team that beat us two out of three last year on our home field, so the motivation is there.”

Central Michigan has two league leaders in their lineup.

Junior outfielder Sam Russell leads the MAC in doubles with 14 and junior infielder Tyler Hall leads in the MAC in triples with five.

Stricklin said his pitching staff, which is first in the MAC in lowest ERA, will not change anything in their approach.

“We’re going to stick with what’s gotten us 8-1 in the conference and stick to our guys’ strengths,” Stricklin said. “We don’t look to pitch to a hitter’s weaknesses, it’s our pitchers’ strengths. We have three really good left-handed starters who know how to pitch, and they’re going to pitch to their strengths.”

Sophomore Andrew Chafin starts Friday with senior Kyle Hallock following Saturday and junior David Starn on Sunday.

Chafin looks to improve his 4-1 record.

The lefty holds a 0.72 ERA, leads the MAC in strikeouts with 62 and holds opponents to just a .183 batting average.

Hallock returns to the mound after throwing a seven-inning shutout against Eastern Michigan last Saturday. The left-hander holds a 4-4 record and 2.47 ERA in 51 innings.

Starn, who leads the pitching staff with a 5-1 record and also most innings pitched at 53.2, closes out the series. He is second on the team in strikeouts with 51 and holds opponents to a .214 batting average.

Stricklin said the team is not worried about the 11-game win streak, one behind Kent State’s longest streak of 12, set April 22, 2008.

“I don’t think they are really even thinking about it,” Stricklin said. “The bottom line is when we step on the field, we feel like we are the best team and we need to win. That’s all we’re really focused on. The fact that we piled up 11 in a row is great, but we’re not too concerned about that.”

Friday’s first pitch is at 3:05 p.m. with a Saturday start of 2:05 p.m. and Sunday’s at 1:05 p.m.

Contact A.J. Atkinson at [email protected].