Neck-and-neck game leads to win for Flashes

Chris Gates

Ryan Mitchell (CENTER) is surrounded by his teammates following a crushing home run on the first pitch of the seventh inning. The homer started off a two-inning rally to push the Flashes over the Vikings 9-7. Daniel Doherty |

Credit: DKS Editors

The winning streak continued for the Kent State baseball team yesterday as Kent State utilized clutch late inning batting to win 9-7 over Cleveland State.

A four-run eighth inning, highlighted by the game-winning double off the bat of sophomore outfielder Jared Humphreys, gave the Flashes an 8-10 overall record and a 2-0 record at home.

“I knew the guy was throwing soft,” Humphreys said. “He fooled me earlier and I knew he’d come back with that change-up so I laid back. I got it elevated and I was able to put it in the outfield.”

The double hit off the top of the extended wall in right center field, nearly going over for a home run. Junior Greg Rohan and freshman Brett Weibley were on second and third, and scored easily on the hit. The manner the Flashes came back in is a bright sign, proving that Kent State has the ability to come back late in games.

“It was great to come back like that,” coach Scott Stricklin said. “Traditionally, in the last two seasons, we really haven’t played well when we’ve been behind late. It’s big for our morale and it’s big for our team.”

Up to that point Cleveland State had not trailed. The Vikings scored two in the first, and again in the second.

Leading 4-1 in the fourth, Cleveland State added another two runs to take a five-run lead. Much of the Vikings’ offense came off the bat of their designated hitter, Alex Kerins. Kerins homered twice in the game and batted in three baserunners.

Trailing 6-1, Kent State answered in the bottom of the fourth by taking advantage of costly defensive mistakes by Cleveland State. Three errors allowed Kent State to score three runs, and the Flashes were suddenly back in the game.

The Vikings added one more run in the sixth, and then Stricklin would make several decisions that changed the game.

In the top of the seventh, Stricklin called upon freshman relief pitcher Justin Gill. The call paid off, as Gill threw two innings of no-hit baseball.

While Gill was striking out batters, the Flashes were striking gold from the plate.

Stricklin made another key decision, pinch-hitting junior Ryan Mitchell for freshman catcher John Lydic. Mitchell then hit a solo home run that would change the momentum for good.

“Leading off the inning, I felt like we needed a spark, and he gave it to us,” Stricklin said. “All I wanted was a good at-bat, I didn’t think he would hit a home run. It kind of got us going again.”

In the bottom of the eighth, Kent State, trailing 7-5, exploded for four runs. A single, a wild pitch and two walks left the bases loaded for sophomore catcher Tyler Martin.

Martin, now in for Lydic, punched a slow roller down the third base line. Sophomore outfielder Anthony Gallas scored from third and the score was 7-6.

Then Humphreys doubled to put Kent State ahead for the first time all game, 8-7. The Flashes added one more run to make the score 9-7.

“We just didn’t quit,” Humphreys said. “We had good at-bats late and that’s what you need.”

Sophomore relief pitcher Jon Pokorny, who had been warming up since the top of the inning when the Flashes still trailed, was sent to the mound instead of senior closer Reid Lamport.

The decision once again paid off for Stricklin and the Flashes, as Pokorny struck out two in the top of the ninth to get the save.

Kent State, who had lost 10 of their first 13 games, has the chance to pull above .500 with their upcoming three game series against Ball State. They will be the first Mid-American Conference games for the Flashes this year.

“It’s going to be a good weekend, Ball State’s a good team,” Stricklin said. “I look for a competitive weekend.”

Friday’s game starts at 3 p.m. and both weekend games start at 1 p.m.

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].