Errorless weekend has team on streak

Chris Gates

Flashes in similar spot after sweeping Falcons for 11 straight wins

Flashes’ junior infielder Kalie Germaine throws out a Ball State runner in the first inning of Friday’s doubleheader. Kent went on to defeat Ball State in the first game 2-1. DANIEL OWEN | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Ron Soltys

The Kent State baseball team is amid a streak reminiscent of 2007, when the Flashes won the Mid-American Conference Championship.

Last year the Flashes finished the regular season winning 18 of 20 games on their way to a MAC title. This season the team is showing signs of repeating the same feat, riding an 11-game win streak, eight in a row in the MAC.

“We’re just really focused on playing hard,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “We challenged our starting pitching. Offensively we picked it up as well. We just, all around, played very good baseball.”

With a sweep over Bowling Green this past weekend, the Flashes are now over .500 in the MAC for the first time this season, 7-5. They also moved in to first place in the MAC-East Division with help from an Akron sweep over Ohio, and are 21-15 overall.

Ohio dropped to 8-7 in the MAC, while Kent State improved to 7-5. Win percentage points give the Flashes the lead.

Beating the Falcons gave the Flashes their second sweep in as many weekends, both in conference.

Much credit should be given to sophomore Anthony Gallas, who fueled the Kent State offense against the Falcons. Gallas batted .300 with three homeruns and seven RBIs in three games.

“If he wasn’t hitting a homerun, he was getting walked,” Stricklin said. “He got us going today. He had a great weekend for us and has been swinging the bat well.”

A first inning two-run homerun by Gallas was all the Flashes needed. Adding runs in the third, fifth, seventh and ninth, the offense provided more than enough run support for sophomore starter Kyle Smith.

Smith pitched eight innings of one-hit baseball. Earning the win, now 6-1 this season, Smith surrendered four hits and struck out eight while walking only two.

“This was probably the best performance of his career,” Stricklin said. “He dominated the strike zone and threw his off-speed for strikes. (He) never allowed their hitters to ever get comfortable.”

To finish his outing, Smith retired the last nine batters he faced, leaving after the eighth for sophomore reliever Jon Pokorny.

Starting pitching was consistently good all weekend, with junior Chris Carpenter and sophomore Brad Stillings earning wins as well. All together, Kent State pitching allowed only five runs, while the bats pounded out 32 total runs.

Striklin said Stillings’ start Friday set the tone for the weekend. The pitching staff’s performances got stronger as the weekend progressed.

“We were kind of joking with Brad Stillings. He led off the weekend with a great start, and I think he had the third-best performance of the weekend,” Stricklin said. “Chris Carpenter came back on Saturday and was better than Brad was, and then Kyle Smith came out and was just as good as Chris Carpenter, if not even a little better. They all kind of topped each other.

“That’s kind of what we want,” he added. “We want those three guys to compete. I think they’re, all three, legitimate number-one starters.”

Helping the starters to successful outings was the defense for Kent State. Not a single error was charged to the Flashes’ defense, an uncommon statistic in NCAA baseball.

“That’s pretty rare in college baseball to go an entire weekend without making an error,” Stricklin said. “All around, we played very well.”

The Flashes will have their chance for a third straight sweep this weekend when they host Ohio at Schoonover Stadium. The series features the first- and second-place teams in the MAC East and will go a long way in deciding seeding for the MAC Championship.

Before the Bobcats arrive, Kent State faces Marshall at home Tuesday, and then an away game at Duquesne on Wednesday. Game time for Tuesday is 3 p.m.

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].