Flashes sweep season series with Pittsburgh

Chris Gates

Ross’ pitching leads team to 9-2 second win over Panthers

Junior starting pitcher Steve Ross provided the Kent State baseball team with another strong mid-week outing, a must for a team searching for its second straight Mid-American Conference Championship.

Ross went seven innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on seven hits with five strikeouts while walking one.

“Pretty decent,” Ross said of his performance. “(I) tried to go deep into the game without getting too deep in the pitch count so I can be ready for this weekend and for MAC play.”

In a rematch of the April 7 game at Pittsburgh, the Flashes and Panthers played to another seven-run decision. Kent State shut out the Panthers 7-0 in the first meeting, and won by the same margin yesterday 9-2.

Ross improved his earned run average, which is already the best among Kent State starters. Ross improved his ERA to 2.45 on the season.

“Steve gave us what we needed,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “We hoped to get five or six (innings) out of him and he gave us seven.

“He threw strikes and worked ahead in the count, and did a really good job.”

Ross said he expects a lot of himself every time he goes out on the mound. Therefore he was not surprised he was able to pitch deep into the latter innings of the game.

“Your goal is always to go as deep as you can,” Ross said. “I expected to go at least six or seven innings.”

Kent State scored two runs in the first inning, courtesy of two errors by the Panthers. The 2-0 lead was one the Flashes would not give up.

The Flashes added three more runs in the fourth, padding the lead and offering Ross extra run support.

Scoring would end in the eighth when sophomore Conor Egan hit a three-run home run to left field, sealing the win. The Flashes had a four-run lead, 6-2, and Stricklin said the home run gave his team extra breathing room.

“We had a lot of guys contribute today,” Stricklin said. “It was a nice win for us.”

Production from batters throughout the lineup is becoming commonplace for the Flashes. With nine runs scored, and 11 total hits, Kent State bats gave Ross more than he needed on the scoreboard.

“We started off kind of slow this year but, lately, it’s been comfortable being a pitcher,” Ross said. “Every day you go out there you’re expecting nine runs, 10 runs, and that’s what our offense has been able to do for us.”

Defense was the weak part of the afternoon, as the Flashes committed two errors. Both scoring innings for Pittsburgh were set up by Kent State errors, and Stricklin said his team could have shut out the Panthers if it weren’t for sloppy play.

“You never like to see balls kicked around,” Stricklin said. “It happens. I don’t really think they should have scored a run. It happens, it’s part of the game.”

Single runs were allowed in the second and fifth to the Panthers. The first run scored by Pittsburgh was on an error by junior third baseman Brad Winter.

With men on second and third, senior catcher Nick Mullins rocketed a ball to third base. Winter could not grasp the ball, which allowed a run to score.

To start the fifth, Winter had trouble with another ball allowing junior Matt Litzinger to reach first base. He was eventually driven in on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Danny Lopez.

In the win, a streak ended for one of the Flashes. Junior Chris Tremblay was unable to get a base hit, ending his 14-game hitting streak.

Tremblay will try and start a new streak when Kent State faces Youngstown State at 3 p.m. today at Schoonover Stadium.

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected]