Balduf paves way in win

Matt Gottfried

Senior lines second grand slam, clinches victory over Ohio

Senior infielder Drew Saylor waits on a pitch during Kent State’s 4-2 win at Ohio Saturday. The Flashes took the series 2-1. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS MACKLER | THE POST

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Despite having to withstand a 12-inning marathon that lasted well into Saturday night, the Kent State baseball team came out for yesterday’s pivotal game three against Ohio anything but expended in its 15-11 victory.

The Flashes (28-14, 13-5 Mid-American Conference) jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first two innings and looked to be well on their way to their sixth-consecutive MAC series victory. After splitting the first two games of the series Friday and Saturday, junior J.J. Pacella took the mound for the Flashes looking to build on his perfect record yesterday.

But Pacella, who entered the contest with a record of 4-0 and a 2.80 ERA, endured his first rough outing of the season. With a 5-0 lead and his team fresh off a 4-2 victory Saturday night, Pacella ran into trouble early against the Bobcats.

Ohio (15-21, 8-10 MAC) answered with five runs in the bottom of the second, then added one more in both the fourth and fifth innings. By the time the sixth inning rolled around, Pacella had surrendered seven earned runs on 10 hits in five-plus innings of work.

Yet sophomore Dominique Rodgers entered from the bullpen in the sixth and minimized the Bobcats’ damage, a trend the entire Kent State bullpen encountered throughout the weekend.

With the score still in favor of the Bobcats, 7-5, the Flashes rallied for three runs in the seventh to regain the lead at 8-7 on freshman Jason Patton’s two-run double. Ohio would then respond with a run of its own in the bottom frame to knot the game at eight.

However, the Flashes refused to relinquish their momentum as they loaded the bases for senior Todd Balduf in the top of the eighth with one out. Much like last week against Wooster, he came up clutch for the Flashes in lining his second grand slam of the week. The home run capped a five-run inning that handed Kent State a lead it never looked back from.

“He just continues to come up clutch for us lately,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “We knew the scoring was done at that point and the momentum swing it gave us was tremendous.”

Balduf finished the game 3-of-3 at the plate with five RBIs, while junior Andrew Davis and senior Kurt Eichorn each added three hits themselves. Drew Saylor also made the most of his first start in the cleanup position, as he drove in four runs on a pair of hits and scored four runs.

Senior Ryan Davis capped off the series-clinching victory with a scoreless ninth. It was the Flashes’ sixth win in seven games.

In Friday’s 5-3 loss, sophomore starter Steve Ross (4-4, 5.46 ERA) surrendered all five runs. He gave up 10 hits to the No. 3 ranked Bobcats.

Once the Flashes went to the bullpen, junior Jason Seelman shut the door. Seelman threw three innings of one-hit ball, while also striking out three. Despite his effort, it was to no avail as Kent State’s offense was unable to make up for the five-run deficit.

“Friday’s performance by Jason was huge for him,” Stricklin said. “He had been struggling of late, so to come out and throw the way he did, it was a real big confidence booster for him. He came in and made some adjustments and did just what we needed him to.”

Only two players recorded multiple hits as seniors Balduf and Andrew Davis each laced a pair of singles. The Flashes were held to just eight hits in the loss.

Saturday’s fate was much the same for Kent State’s bullpen, as sophomore Reid Lamport held the Bobcats scoreless for the final three-plus innings to pick up his third win of the season. Lamport gave up just three hits, holding the Flashes to within striking distance through much of the contest with the score knotted at 2.

“Lamport was just absolutely dominating for us on Saturday,” Stricklin said. “He kept us in that game until Balduf was finally able to get us back on the board.”

The big blow of the night came from Balduf late in the game, when he lined the eventual game-winning two-run double in the top of the 12th to score Saylor and Davis. Saylor finished 3-of-5 at the plate with a pair of runs scored.

“Todd has just had a great season all around for us,” Stricklin said. “He had a couple big situations at the plate this weekend, and he came up clutch in both of them.”

Meanwhile, in his 11th start of the season, Wagler dominated on the hill. He tossed seven and a third innings, giving up one run on six hits before giving way to the bullpen.

“Chad was his normal self on Saturday,” Stricklin said. “It was a classic pitcher’s duel and he matched the opposition pitch for pitch. The second game was huge for us because we needed to get back in the series after losing the first game and he really came up big for us.”

Only three series remain in the conference for Kent State, which will next be in action tomorrow at 3 p.m. Tuesday when it hosts Pittsburgh.

Contact baseball reporter Matt Gottfried at [email protected]