Battle-tested and road-tested’ Flashes to take on Ohio

Josh Johnston

The Kent State and Ohio baseball teams have traded places at the top of the Mid-American Conference East division all season. After this weekend, one of those teams will have a clear advantage.

The Flashes (30-8, 11-3 MAC) will travel to Athens today to begin a three-game series with Ohio. Kent State sits a half game behind the Bobcats (19-14, 12-3) with 12 conference games remaining.

“Whoever wins the series is going to be in first place with three weeks to go,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “Obviously it’s very important and we don’t get to play this team again. It’s the only chance (we) get.”

The Series No. 25 Kent State (30-8, 11-3 MAC) at Ohio (19-14, 12-3)

Where: Bob Wren Stadium, Athens

When: Today at 6 p.m. (Brad Stillings vs. Chris Rigo), tomorrow at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

For Kent State, the series comes during a 10-game road trip, which opened with a doubleheader at Youngstown State on Wednesday. After sweeping the Penguins 12-0 and 6-3, the Flashes are 15-6 away from Schoonover Stadium.

“Anytime you play away from home it’s difficult,” Stricklin said. “We played a lot of games on the road early in the season. So now we’ve got a stretch of 10 games in a row on the road. We’re battle-tested and road-tested, so I think we should be ready to play.”

The Flashes began the season with a 12-game road stand, going 8-4.

On the mound for the Flashes today will be junior Brad Stillings (5-1, 3.86 ERA). The righthander was roughed up by Bowling Green in his last start, allowing 10 hits and seven earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Stillings will have to hold down a hard-hitting Ohio team. The Bobcats rank second in the MAC in slugging percentage (.483) and home runs (42).

“Offensively, I think that they’re a very good team,” Stricklin said. “Defensively, I think we have an advantage, and on the pitching mound I think we have an advantage.

“Our pitchers have to do their job against (Ohio’s) hitters, and our hitters have to take advantage of some of their deficiencies on the pitching side.”

Senior infielder Chris Tremblay said because the two teams are so close in the standings, winning the series will be important.

“We’re one and two in the conference right now,” Tremblay said. “To be able to beat (Ohio) and get some games up on them would be huge, especially going down the stretch at the end of our schedule.”

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].