Baseball begins conference play this weekend

Chris Gates

The Kent State baseball team faces its first Mid-American Conference series of the season this weekend as Ball State visits Schoonover Stadium.

The Cardinals are an even .500 so far this season with a 9-9 record. Kent State comes in to the game at 8-10 and riding a five-game win streak.

“Our bats are coming along and we’re pitching good,” sophomore outfielder Jared Humphreys said. “Earlier in the season we weren’t having good at-bats, and I think we’re getting into the swing of things and starting to hit it well.”

The Flashes have exploded during the streak, scoring at least nine runs in four of the five games, and averaging 9.6 runs per game in that span.

Ball State has also had no trouble scoring runs lately, coming off a 20-run performance against Anderson College.

However, for both teams, the competition will become tougher as they begin their MAC schedule today. Kent’s opening series at Eastern Michigan was canceled, and Ball State saw the same happen in its opening MAC series at Akron.

Coach Scott Stricklin believes the Flashes are ready for MAC play, and a comeback win like Wednesday’s will help his team transition to conference play. The Flashes defeated Cleveland State Wednesday with a four-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning to win 9-7.

“When you start winning like that and you start feeling comfortable, guys start believing they can win every time out,” Stricklin said. “I think we’re ready to play. It’s going to be a good series; Ball State is a competitive team.”

Stricklin also said the day off would not be used for rest. Rather, the Flashes practiced Thursday to prepare for the Cardinals and go over what their opponent likes to do during games.

Ball State has had an up and down start to its 2008 season, never winning or losing more than two games in a row all season. The Flashes have been quite a streaky team thus far, losing 10 of their first 13 before the current win streak.

Consistency has come from several players for the Flashes.

Sophomore outfielder Anthony Gallas has been the most consistent at the plate, batting .367 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. Also joining him in the .300 club is fellow outfielder freshman Ben Klafczynski, batting .309.

In the pitching staff, sophomore Kyle Smith leads the way with a 3-1 record and a 6.08 ERA. Junior Chris Carpenter is the team leader in walk-to-strikeout ratio, retiring 21 and walking only eight.

The Flashes pitchers will have to worry about the Cardinal lineup, featuring as many as seven batters with an average of .300 or better. The leading run producer for Ball State is junior outfielder Nate Fields who has hit four home runs and 15 RBIs en route to a .346 batting average.

Kent State and Ball State take the field at Schoonover Stadium at 3 p.m. today. Both weekend games start at 1 p.m.

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].