Flashes stop late comeback to beat Pitt

Matt Gottfried

Kent State pitcher Alan Morrison strikes out a member of the Pittsburgh Panthers during last night’s game. The Flashes dominated the game, winning 17-14, and play at 7 p.m. tonight at Youngstown State. AMANDA SOWARDS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Steve Schirra

It’s not often a team puts up 15 hits and 11 runs in one inning.

It’s even more seldom for a team to give up 13 runs in the final two innings and still win the game.

But that’s exactly what the Kent State baseball team did yesterday afternoon when it defeated Pittsburgh 17-14 at Schoonover Stadium.

The Flashes racked up 11 runs in the third inning as they sent 15 batters to the plate. In that one inning alone, they attributed for 15 hits, including back-to-back home runs from seniors Drew Saylor and Kurt Eichorn at the conclusion of the inning.

“We know we’re a real good hitting team, and we expect to put up a lot of runs,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “You don’t expect to put up 17 runs against a good team like Pittsburgh though.”

Not even Mother Nature could delay senior Todd Balduf from continuing his torrid hitting, as it took him just one inning to line his second home run in as many games and his eighth of the season.

“I take all the pride in the world in being able to handle the pitching staff,” Balduf said. “But being able to help the team out offensively too is just a big plus.”

Balduf, who was named Mid-American Conference Hitter of the Week Monday, went 2-for-2 in the rain-delayed contest after hitting .438 last week. He drove in two runs and scored two times while hitting in the No. 5 slot. Two walks also added to the perfect night in which he reached base in all four trips to the plate.

“Todd (Balduf) is swinging the bat really well right now from both sides of the plate,” Stricklin said. “He’s got a lot of clutch hits for us and he’s been a real big part of our success. He’s worked really hard to get where he is now, and he deserves everything he’s getting.

“I’d say he is one of the premier catchers in this league with the way he’s playing right now.”

In addition to Balduf, Saylor and Eichorn also turned in solid performances. Saylor finished the afternoon with three hits and five RBIs, while also finding his way across home plate on three different occasions. Eichorn’s home run, which bounced off the softball scoreboard 425-plus feet beyond right field, highlighted his afternoon. He went 4-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and three runs scored.

On the mound, freshman Alan Morrison picked up his fifth-straight victory as he improved his record to 5-0 on the season. Morrison threw six innings of five-hit ball, surrendering just one run and striking out seven. His effort helped to lower his already team-best ERA to 2.53.

“Our bullpen is a little thin right now, and we needed him to go out there and give us at least six solid innings,” Stricklin said. “That’s exactly what he did tonight and he threw real well. We really needed that.”

But his effort nearly went unwarranted, as the Panmer offensive lit up the Flashes’ bullpen for 13 runs in the final two innings.

Down 14-1 heading into the eighth inning, the Panthers rallied for four runs on four hits to stir up a small spark. Little did they know, that spark would evolve into a series of explosions in the following inning.

Pitt recorded seven hits, three of which were home runs, to score nine runs in the ninth inning. However, the late rally proved to be insufficient as freshman Ryan Steele induced the final out after giving up nine runs in the inning.

Despite being without its top hitter, senior Andrew Davis (.376), the Kent State lineup lashed out 19 hits, compared to Pitt’s 16. Junior Emmanuel Burriss did his best to reclaim the team’s highest batting average though, as he went 3-for-3 at the plate. He also stole three bases in recording his 80th career stolen base, just three shy of the school record.

“The whole part of the lineup has just been doing really well,” Balduf said. “Like with the two grand slams I hit last week, I just happened to be the one up with those guys on base. I give them all the credit in the world.”

Next up for Kent State is a non-conference game at 7 p.m. tonight at Youngstown State.

Contact baseball reporter Matt Gottfried at [email protected]