Bad weather creates double trouble in opening weekend

Chris Gates

Baseball team loses two of its three games

High hopes led to disappointment after the Kent State baseball team dropped two of its first three games to open the season this weekend.

“We were definitely not in mid-season form,” coach Scott Stricklin said. “I know that we’re going to get better. That’s to be expected a little bit early on.”

Friday’s game was re-scheduled to Saturday at 1 p.m. due to weather, causing a double header with another game at 4 p.m.

Kent State started off hot but was unable to keep the momentum rolling through nine innings and lost their first game 12-3.

Junior infielder Greg Rohan hit his first home run of the year on his first plate appearance of the year in the first inning. With two outs, Rohan sent a fly ball over the left field wall putting the Flashes up 2-0.

However, University North Carolina at Greensboro would answer with a one-run first and second inning to tie the score at two.

That was the closest the Flashes would be for the remainder of the game, as the Spartans recorded a three-run fifth inning to grab a lead they would not relinquish. A one-run sixth and seventh made the score 7-2 going in to the eighth.

In the eighth, UNC Greensboro added another five runs by way of two Kent State errors, and the score was 12-3.

Despite the errors, Stricklin was happy with his team’s defensive effort considering that the weekend was the first outdoor experience for the 2008 team.

“Defensively, I thought we played pretty well,” Stricklin said. “We hadn’t seen a popup outside yet because of the weather we have had.”

Kent State managed a run in the top of the eighth but was unable to accumulate any more production before games’ end.

Pitching was not at the level Stricklin had hoped it would be coming in to the weekend. However, he has confidence that with time, consistency will set in.

“We didn’t throw a lot of strikes,” Stricklin said. “That’s probably the biggest disappointment over the weekend — we gave too many free passes out.”

The Flashes walked 19 batters over the weekend, which led to costly runs.

“The positive thing about it is I know we’re going to get better,” Stricklin said. “We’ve got a lot of talent on our pitching staff.”

The second end of the double header was more successful for the Flashes.

As was the case in the first game, Kent State got the early lead from the same bat.

Rohan’s RBI single scored one of two first inning runs. The bottom of the first then saw UNC Greensboro match Kent State’s effort with two runs of its own.

With the score tied at two, UNC Greensboro scored another run in the top of the second to put the Spartans in front 3-2.

Once again, Rohan answered for the Flashes by hitting his second home run of the season, again to left field, to tie the score at three in the top of the third.

The Flashes and Spartans continued to trade runs through the ninth inning, where they found themselves tied 5-5.

With two outs and Jared Humphreys on first, Doug Sanders hit a double to drive in Humphreys and put Kent State ahead 6-5. Sophomore outfielder Anthony Gallas then hit a single to drive in Sanders from second for a 7-5 Kent State lead.

“Offensively, I thought we were okay,” Stricklin said. “We had some guys that swung the bat pretty well. I’m encouraged by the fact that we didn’t play our best and we still hung in there with a very good team.”

In the bottom of the 10th, senior closer Reid Lamport allowed nothing leading to his first win and save of the year.

Sunday saw another close game that took more than nine innings to decide.

The Flashes and Spartans were tied 3-3 going in to the 10th inning, but were unable to hold off UNC Greensboro and lost 4-3. The loss was partly due to the inability to score runs when they were presented.

“Overall I think we can build from this and learn from this, and get better as a team,” Stricklin said.

Kent State will have three days to do so until they travel to South Carolina for a tournament featuring two ranked teams: St. John’s and North Carolina. The tournament starts Thursday, hosted by Winthrop.

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].