Baseball team takes down Cleveland State, 6-4

A.J. Atkinson

With a runner on third and the tying run at the plate, junior closer Kyle McMillen struck out his fourth batter for his four-out, 12th save of the season Wednesday against Cleveland State.

The Flashes used the midweek game to throw four of their bullpen pitchers in the 6-4 win over Vikings.

“I thought we pitched very well and played great defense,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “(Freshman) Danny Slavik threw well and had a good start for his first career start. (Senior) Brendan Glass, (sophomore) Casey Wilson, and Kyle McMillen were all outstanding.”

Stricklin said he was not as happy with the offense. After Kent State’s dominating weekend at the plate against Buffalo, the Flashes scored only six runs on seven hits.

“I thought we gave away some at-bats,” Stricklin said. “We have to make sure offensively we take care of some things. That was a little frustrating.”

Junior left fielder Joe Koch did most of the damage against the Vikings, going two-for-four at the plate with two runs batted in and a run scored in his first game back in the lineup since April 12 after injuring his shoulder.

“Joe gives us energy,” Stricklin said. “It was tough not having him in there. He really works hard and plays hard. He has good at-bats, he bunt, he can run, he can do a lot of things. It’s nice to have Joe back and get a little spark.”

Koch said the best feeling of being back in the lineup was reaching first base with a single in his first at-bat.

“The line drive single over the shortstop’s head in the first inning was the biggest confidence booster,” Koch said. “I think that’s going to propel me into this weekend to know I didn’t miss much (performance-wise).”

McMillen’s save did not come as easy as most of his saves have been this season. The right-handed reliever, who has thrown two, four pitch saves this season, threw 24 in his save against Cleveland State. McMillen allowed two singles in the ninth with the first batter scoring on a passed ball. That was all McMillen allowed, as he struck out the following batter, the potential tying run, to end the game.

Though the save opportunity was harder fought than some saves in the past, McMillen said you cannot allow yourself to think too much in those tight situations.

“You go and attack each hitter the same way,” McMillen said. “You try to hope your stuff is better than theirs. Usually you come into the game in a tough spot and the starter has the expectation that run isn’t going to score, so you try to live up to that and help them out.”

Stricklin said he would like to have seen more from his offense, but the team is now focusing on the weekend conference series at Ohio University this weekend.

“The pitching and defense were great; offense can always get better,” Stricklin said. “It’s another win. Just get ready for the weekend.”

Friday’s first pitch is scheduled to be thrown at 6 p.m. Friday, with Saturday’s game starting at 3 p.m. and Sunday’s at 1 p.m.