Flashes welcome the struggling Vikings

A.J. Atkinson

With the starting pitchers throwing so many innings on the weekend games, Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said he will throw his bullpen pitchers against Cleveland State tomorrow.

The three weekend starters, sophomore Andrew Chafin, senior Kyle Hallock and junior David Starn, have together pitched 58 percent of the 38 games.

This leaves many of the bullpen pitchers out of work, as junior closer Kyle McMillen and senior setup man Justin Gill often come in to pitch the final two innings of the weekend games.

“We’ll probably see four or five different guys pitch,” Stricklin said.

The rotation of Kent State’s relief pitchers will face a struggling Cleveland State team (7-28). The Vikings are last in the Horizon League in batting average at .233.

Junior starting pitcher Ryan Mace, who starts most of the midweek games, was scheduled to start Tuesday’s game against Niagara that was canceled. Mace has a 3-1 record, and a 1.42 earned run average in 31.2 innings.

Stricklin said Mace would get some innings against the Vikings, though did not say if he would start or how many innings he would pitch.

Cleveland State’s fielding and pitching is not any better. The Vikings are last in the Horizon League in fielding, committing 71 errors in 35 games, and their pitching is last with the highest earned run average in the league at 6.97.

“They’ve struggled a little bit this year, but they’ve always played us tough,” Stricklin said. “They beat us once last year in an extra inning game. It’s a rivalry that means a lot to them and we need to be ready to compete and take that intensity that they’re going to bring to the game.”

Stricklin said he hopes the team plays better than they did the last time they faced a team from the Horizon League.

“Couple weeks ago when we played Youngstown State, we won but we didn’t play particularly well,” Stricklin said. “We weren’t focused and we weren’t motivated. You have to be ready to play. If we’re focused and ready we’ll be fine.”

After sweeping Buffalo and outscoring them, Stricklin said he hopes momentum from the Buffalo series, when the team outscored the Bulls 27 to eight, will carry over.

“We finished strong in all those games, and I think that’s really important,” Stricklin said. “Right now are guys feel good about the way we played and we played good defense. We pitched well and hopefully we can take that momentum into the next few games.”

Senior right fielder Ben Klafczynski has potential to be a solid contributor in tomorrow’s game.

Last weekend, the left-handed hitter hit .417 with two singles, two doubles and a triple and four runs batted in. He leads the team in batting average at .374, runs batted in at 35 and runs scored at 33. He is second on the team in home runs with seven and third on the team in doubles with eight.

Stricklin said he does not look at this team as a one-man lineup.

“We had more than one guy contribute,” Stricklin said. “It’s been a different guy each time out.”

The first pitch at Schoonover Stadium is scheduled at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Contact A.J. Atkinson at [email protected]