Baseball team opens MAC play today

Tyler McIntosh

After playing 16 straight games on the road, the Kent State baseball team will get a chance to stay home over break.

Tonight, the Flashes will open Mid-American Conference play with the beginning of a three-game series against Western Michigan (4-11). Before a three-game set with Central Michigan (8-10) March 30-April 1, Kent State will play single games against Cleveland State (2-15) Tuesday and Pittsburgh (7-10) Wednesday.

A year ago, Kent State took two of three games against Western Michigan in the regular season before beating the Broncos again in the MAC Tournament. Kent State also took two of three from Central Michigan last season and defeated both Cleveland State and Pittsburgh in single-game sets.

“They (Central and Western Michigan) are always going to be tough competition,” senior catcher Will Vazquez said. “I remember last year. Western took us close, 6-4, 5-4, and then they beat us the other time.”

Earlier this year coach Scott Stricklin said Kent State would not be able to constantly depend on its pitching for victories.

“I know our pitching is going to keep us in games, but our offense will eventually have to win us some games,” Stricklin said.

With the start of MAC play looming, it looks like the Flashes’ bats may have finally come alive at the right time. After early struggles to find consistency at the plate, Kent State scored 12 runs Wednesday against Youngstown State.

“It was definitely a confidence boost,” Vazquez said. “We were looking for that big outburst, and I think (Wednesday) was it. Hopefully, we can carry that on.”

Leading the offensive resurrection has been senior third baseman Andrew Davis and freshman left fielder Anthony Gallas. In the past four games, the two have combined for two home runs and 9 RBIs while batting .438 and .467, respectively.

Junior pitcher Evan Smith (1-0), who has an ERA of 0.47 and is today’s projected starter, has been nearly untouchable this season. Smith has given up 11 hits in 19.1 innings and has held opponents to a .192 average.

The bridge between the starters and closer Ryan Davis has also gotten the job done this season. Middle relievers Reid Lamport, junior, and senior Jason Seelman have logged 27.1 innings while only surrendering five earned runs. The duo has also struck out 26 batters.

Kent State will host Central Michigan at 3 p.m. today.

Contact baseball reporter Tyler McIntosh at [email protected].