Flashes ride small ball to victory

Josh Johnston

Kent State uses bunts and singles to beat YSU

Senior pitcher Steve Ross throws a pitch during yesterday’s game against Youngstown State. Ross started the game yesterday and was relieved by senior Alan Morrison. Kent State beat Youngstown State 5-3. Caitlin Sirse | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Small ball worked well for the Kent State baseball team in its 5-3 win over Youngstown State yesterday afternoon at Schoonover Stadium.

The Flashes (25-7) sacrificed, bunted and singled their way to their eighth win in nine games.

“It’s really been the condition of the weather,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “There were probably three or four balls that would have gotten out of here if the wind was different.”

With a steady drizzle throughout the whole game and wind blowing in, the Flashes took advantage of the opportunities the Penguins gave them.

In the second inning, Youngstown State pitcher Ryan Messmer walked three Kent State batters to load the bases. With two outs, junior catcher Tyler Martin then singled on a ground ball up the middle to score freshman designated hitter Kyle McMillen and senior second baseman Ryan Mitchell.

“Especially with the wind today it’s important to hit the ball on the ground,” Mitchell said. “We got a couple of those hits on the ground that helped us win the game.

“Whether small ball or not, a lot of guys are getting the jobs done that they’re asked to do.”

Kent State broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning with a two-run rally. Martin led off with a walk and scored on sophomore Ben Klafczynski’s double that landed just inside the right field baseline. Klafczynski then crossed the plate after freshman first baseman Travis Shaw smashed a ground-ball single in the right field gap.

In the eighth inning, Kent State again benefited from Youngstown State’s mistakes. After beating out a grounder to first, senior right fielder Jason Patton advanced to second on a balk and then to third on a wild pitch.

Mitchell brought Patton in with a short sacrifice fly to foul territory. Penguins’ right fielder Jason Marzec’s throw to the plate was wide, allowing Patton to score easily.

Kent State’s defense, on the other hand, preserved the win, Stricklin said.

“On a cold and rainy day, you have to play defense,” he said. “We played great defense. Everyone that came into the game did a great job.”

Starting pitcher senior Steve Ross tossed three shutout innings before allowing the Penguins to tie the score in the fourth. He left the game after 4 2/3 innings, two strikeouts and two walks on 76 pitches.

Kent State’s bullpen finished out the game by scattering three hits for a run in the final 4 1/3 innings. Sophomore Justin Gill held Youngstown State hitless and struck out three in his 1 2/3 innings of work.

“I guess it’s the sign of a good team – you find different ways to win,” Stricklin said. “We’ve found a lot of ways to win this year, and we’ve won a lot of close games. That’s reflected in how many saves we have as a team … we have a very good bullpen, and guys are getting the job done.”

Playing small ball and winning close games has brought Kent State back into national recognition. On Monday, the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll ranked Kent State No. 24 in the nation.

The Flashes will return to the field today in Columbus to play Ohio State at 6:35 p.m. On the mound for Kent State will be freshman Ryan Mace (2-1, 3.10 ERA), who in his last outing allowed three hits and two runs against Marshall.

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].