Flashes lose two of three against NIU

Chris Gates

Team picks up its first MAC win after five straight losses

The Kent State baseball team won its first Mid-American Conference game of the season at Northern Illinois over the weekend, winning one of three against the Huskies in Dekalb, Ill.

The Flashes struggled to execute Friday and Saturday, but were able to piece together a win yesterday.

“I think it’s good just to get the monkey off your back,” coach Scott Stricklin said about the Flashes winning their first MAC game. “For whatever reason we just haven’t played very well. Now it’s time to be consistent, play the way we’re capable of playing and hopefully get on a little bit of a winning streak here.”

Earlier in the week, Stricklin noted a lack of intensity amongst the players. Now, he says, better execution will help the Flashes turn around the slow start to the season. Kent State is currently 11-15 on the year, 1-5 in the MAC.

“We’ve made some progress,” Stricklin said. “I thought we played hard all weekend. We just didn’t execute, we just didn’t get the job done.”

Despite getting 10 hits, three of which were home runs, the Flashes were unable to beat Northern Illinois on Friday. The Huskies bettered Kent State by compiling 17 hits of their own, as well as four home runs.

An explosive first inning for Northern Illinois put the Flashes in a 5-0 hole from the beginning. Clutch two-out batting produced two singles, a double and a home run.

The Flashes answered in the following innings via two two-run home runs to come within one, 5-4. Sophomore outfielder Jared Bartholomew did so in the second, and fellow sophomore outfielder Anthony Gallas again in the third.

Leading by one, Huskies junior designated hitter Justin Behm decided the game with his bat. A triple by Behm in the third made the score 6-4. Then in the fifth, he hit a two-run homer to put Northern Illinois up 8-4.

Kent State managed only two more runs, while allowing two more home runs in the eighth to lose 11-6.

Saturday’s game was much tighter, but the result remained the same with Kent State losing 3-2. A few inches could have sent the game in to extra innings.

With the score tied at two in the ninth, sophomore relief pitcher Jon Pokorny pitched to the Huskies senior outfielder Jeff Thomas with a runner on third. Thomas checked his swing, but made contact with the ball, sending a slow roller down the third base line. Freshman infielder Brett Weibly fielded the ball and made the throw to first, but junior infielder Brad Winter could not keep his foot on the bag.

The runner at third scored on the play, which would have been the third out of the inning.

“We had plenty of chances to win the game Saturday,” Stricklin said. “We just didn’t execute, didn’t get the job done.”

Despite the loss, Kent State had a quality outing from starter Chris Carpenter. Carpenter allowed just three hits and one earned run along with 11 strikeouts in six innings of work.

“We pitched plenty well enough,” Stricklin said. “Chris Carpenter and Reid Lamport were both unbelievable, striking out 16 between the two of them. Not getting that win hurt.”

The first conference win of the year was achieved yesterday, with a 9-5 win. Sophomore starter Kyle Smith went 6.1 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits.

Doug Sanders led the team with four RBIs and a run scored.

Kent State nearly gave away the win, leading 7-2 in the bottom of the eighth. A fielding error led to three NIU runs, closing the deficit to two. However, the Flashes were able to score two in the top of the ninth to pad their lead en route to victory.

“We played well (yesterday),” Stricklin said. “Kyle Smith had a great outing, and it’s always good to get a win on Sunday. Winning on Sunday always makes you feel a little bit better about the weekend because that’s the last thing you think about.”

The Flashes now return home for a five-game homestand at Schoonover Stadium. Wooster comes Tuesday and Duquesne on Wednesday before a weekend series with MAC opponent Toledo.

“We’ve got a big weekend series coming up with Toledo at home,” Stricklin said. “We need to take care of our home field.”

This weekend in Baseball

Friday

Northern Illinois 11 – Kent State 6

Saturday

Northern Illinois 3 – Kent State 2

Sunday

Kent State 9 – Northern Illinois 5

*Sunday’s win was the first Mid-American Conference win of the year for Kent State. Pitcher Kyle Smith went 6.1 innings allowing two runs on seven hits.

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].