Sophomore outfielder Jared Humphreys runs to first base in an attempt to get on base after striking out yesterday against the Youngstown State Penguins. Brian Marks | Daily Kent Stater
Credit: DKS Editors
Despite a shaky start by its starting pitcher and lineup, the Kent State baseball team was able to pull out a 9-5 win over Youngstown State yesterday.
Junior starter Alan Morrison had trouble finding the strike zone early, allowing the Penguins to record two runs in each of the first two innings. However, as the game wore on, Morrison was able to locate his pitches better and threw 3 and two-thirds scoreless innings before leaving the game.
“He just needed to settle down and relax a little bit,” coach Scott Stricklin said. “We needed some innings out of him. He gave us a chance to win because he extended that game and he shut things down.”
While Morrison was on the mound, the Flashes’ bats were silent. Kent State scored only one run in the first five innings to the dismay of Stricklin.
Many key chances to score runs in the early going were thwarted due to the Flashes beating themselves. Stricklin removed much of his original lineup throughout the game because of poor decisions made at the plate.
“I thought some guys had some poor at bats,” Stricklin said. “The thing that I ask these guys every single day is to make sure that they’re prepared and mentally ready. I didn’t feel like some of our guys were ready to go, and it showed in some of their plate appearances.
“I substituted early,” he added. “I put guys in the game, and those guys that came in the game got the job done.”
Stricklin’s decisions ended up paying off. His substitutions came in, made a significant impact, and turned around a game that was on its way to a 4-1 loss.
Sophomore Conor Egan came in for sophomore Anthony Gallas and drew two walks – Gallas had gone 0-2 from the plate. Sophomore Jared Humphreys came in for sophomore Jared Bartholomew and saved a run by throwing out Erich Diedrich at the plate from centerfield in the seventh inning.
“All those guys that came in the game did a good job and gave us a chance to win,” Stricklin said.
One of the surviving starters was junior Jason Patton. Patton was Mr. Consistency from the plate, going 3-5 with a run scored and an RBI. He helped keep the team in the game offensively, recording solid plate appearances from the seventh spot in the lineup.
“I was just looking for a pitch that I could put a good swing on,” Patton said. “I just tried to keep it simple today. I didn’t try to do too much.”
In the seventh, Patton beat out a ground ball for an infield single, tying the game at four. This was the first time the Flashes had been back at even since the game opened up 0-0.
After Patton, freshman John Lydic, another one of Stricklin’s subs, hit another infield single with the bases loaded to put Kent State up 5-4. The Flashes would never trail again.
Junior Chris Tremblay and senior Doug Sanders each showed patience at the plate with the bases loaded, earning walks making the score 7-4.
The final Kent State run of the inning occurred on another hustle play as Humphreys ran out a grounder. The throw was a bit off, just pulling the first baseman off the bag and allowing a run to score.
Patton noted that the ability for Kent State to come back and have players produce off the bench was huge for their confidence.
“It’s good to see the guys come off the bench and be ready to go,” Patton said. “Sometimes it easy just to cave in and quit. I think guys showed a lot of heart today.”
Patton was a guy who fueled the Kent State offense in last year’s Mid-American Conference Tournament. His improved plate appearances lead to believe he can create a repeat performance of that this season.
Coming from behind to win has become a trend lately for the Flashes. Last weekend, Kent State battled back to win twice against Toledo. The ability to do so gives the team added confidence.
“Being able to come from behind, in the long run, I think that will help us,” Patton said. “There’s going to be games that are close toward the tournament, or toward the end of the year, where we’re going to have to fight. I think if we fight now, we’re going to fight twice as hard in the tournament.”
The Flashes will have to battle this weekend as another important MAC East series begins. Buffalo visits Schoonover Stadium for three games. The Flashes currently occupy the top spot in the MAC East, and trail Eastern Michigan by two games for the overall one seed.
Game time is set for 3 p.m. tomorrow, and 1 p.m. for both Saturday and Sunday.
Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected]