KSU baseball sweeps Buffalo in weekend series

AJ Atkinson

Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said Thursday he wanted the middle of his lineup to lead the Flashes’ struggling offense of late.

The three, four and five hitters did just that in the weekend sweep over Buffalo.

Senior right fielder Ben Klafczynski led the Flashes’ offense this weekend from his No. 4 spot in the lineup. The cleanup hitter hit .417 on the weekend with two singles, two doubles, a triple and four runs batted in.

Junior third baseman Travis Shaw’s powerful weekend made it easy to overlook Klafczynski’s numbers. The left-handed batter hit .307 in the No. 3 spot with four hits — two of the four for home runs and one for a triple — and three runs batted in. Shaw’s two home runs passed Klafczynski for the team lead and Mid-American Conference lead for home runs at nine.

Junior catcher David Lyon filled his role in the No. 5 spot, hitting .273 with two runs and one RBI.

Stricklin said he was happy the middle of his lineup responded.

“We talked about it before (Friday’s) game,” Stricklin said. “We really need the middle of the order to do that.”

Shaw talked about the difference it makes when the middle of the lineup produces the way they did this weekend.

“The bottom of the lineup and younger guys look for the middle of the lineup to get them going,” Shaw said. “Once we get it going, they tend to follow. When we struggle, we tend to struggle as an offense as a whole. But when our middle of the order gets going, we put up runs.”

Friday — Kent State 7, Buffalo 5

An off day from sophomore starting pitcher Andrew Chafin and nasty weather Friday nearly provided the upset win for Buffalo.

“The weather was just brutal today,” Chafin said. “It was just one of those days I didn’t have my stuff and the weather didn’t help. It just wasn’t a very good day.”

Stricklin said he was satisfied with a Chafin-styled off day.

“(Chafin’s) bad day was 5 1/3 (innings) and four earned runs,” Stricklin said. “Most people’s bad days are eight or nine runs. He battled through it.”

In those 5 1/3 innings, Chafin allowed three hits, struck out eight while walking five.

The Flashes’ offense fought back with help from sophomore center fielder Evan Campbell, who went two-for-five with two RBIs and a run scored and Roberts, who hit two-for-four with a double, a run scored and an RBI.

Saturday, Game 1 — Kent State 13, Buffalo 3

Shaw did most of his damage both offensively and defensively in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader.

The third baseman hit two-for-three with two home runs, three RBIs and one intentional walk. On defense, the third baseman assisted in seven outs. Three of the six ground balls hit to Shaw were turned for double plays, including a bases-loaded double play to get senior pitcher Kyle Hallock out of the sixth.

Hallock recorded his sixth win (6-4), pitching seven innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits, striking out seven and walking two.

The middle of the lineup’s production carried through to the rest of the team. Freshman second baseman Derek Toadvine hit three-for-five with three runs scored from the No. 9 spot. Campbell drove Toadvine in from the leadoff spot two times, as Campbell hit two-for-four with three RBIs.

The victory marked Kent State’s 1,500th win.

Saturday, Game 2 — Kent State 7, Buffalo 0

Junior starting pitcher David Starn, who normally pitches on Sundays, started for the Flashes. It took a couple trips to the mound from pitching coach Mike Birkbeck and a couple innings before Starn found his rhythm.

Despite pitching 7 1/3 innings, striking out eight, walking one and allowing no runs on six hits, Starn and Stricklin said it was an off day for the left-hander.

“He pitched outstanding, but he didn’t have his best stuff,” Stricklin said. “He was uncomfortable out there, but did a really good job settling.”

Rider and Klafczynski led the team on offense. Rider hit two-for-four with a three-run home run in the eighth for a 7-0 Flashes lead. Klafczynski also hit two-for-four with two RBIs.

“I thought we had a very solid day all around,” Stricklin said. “The pitching was outstanding again. It was a good weekend.”

The Bulls were Kent State’s third sweep of the season. The Flashes improved to 26-12, 12-3 in the MAC and remain in first place in the conference.

Niagara travels to Kent State for a midweek game at 3 p.m. Tuesday with Cleveland State arriving Wednesday for a 3 p.m. start at Schoonover Stadium.

Contact AJ Atkinson at [email protected] .