Flashes hold off late surge for a 7-4 win

Matt Gottfried

Kent State senior starter Jon Miller tossed six scoreless innings in his second start of the season against Duquesne yesterday, propelling the Flashes to a 7-4 victory.

Miller, who entered the contest with a 2-1 record and an ERA of 11.74, held the Dukes (7-22) to only three hits while striking out three. Last season, he led the team in win percentage with a 4-1 record and also posted the Flashes’ second best ERA of 2.70.

“It was Jon’s best outing of the year by far,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said in a press release. “Jon could have stayed in the game longer, but we wanted him around for this weekend.”

Despite Miller’s strong outing, the bullpen nearly blew a six-run lead, five of which came from a strong third inning.

The Flashes (17-11, 6-3 Mid-American Conference) jumped on the board first in the third with a pair of big doubles from senior center fielder Joe Tucker and freshman first baseman Brad Winter.

Tucker’s shot drove in shortstop Emmanuel Burriss after he reached base on a hit by pitch, while Winter’s blast came a few batters later to drive in two more. Senior Drew Saylor and junior Will Vazquez also contributed with RBI singles in the inning, all adding to a quick 5-0 lead after three innings of play.

Miller kept that score locked in place for the next three innings before giving way to the bullpen in the seventh with a 6-0 lead. The extra run came from senior Andrew Davis’ bat after he lined his first home run of the season in the top half of the seventh.

But it was in the bottom frame that Duquesne went to work.

Kent State reliever Phil Bojc entered for his eighth appearance of the season and immediately got off to a rough start after hitting the first batter of the inning. He rebounded by striking out the next hitter, but then proceeded to surrender five hits and a walk before being relieved by sophomore Reid Lamport.

Lamport, who lowered his ERA to 2.35 with two scoreless innings, worked out of the jam to preserve a 7-4 lead the Flashes never relinquished.

After scoring 13-plus runs in five-straight games, the Flashes had their five-game winning streak come to a halt with a 5-2 loss to Northern Illinois Sunday.

Yet Kent State’s hot bats returned back to their original form yesterday, as they shelled out nine more hits to earn its ninth win in 11 games.

Saylor led all hitters with his 3-for-5 performance, improving his batting average to .350. He also added a pair of RBIs to overtake senior cleanup hitter Kurt Eichorn as the team’s top run producer. But the accolades didn’t end there, as he also smashed his seventh home run of the season in the top of the ninth to quiet the surging Dukes.

“Duquesne had the momentum going into the ninth,” Stricklin said. “We really needed that boost from Drew.”

Kent State will next be in action today when it hosts Youngstown State (11-15) in a non-conference affair. Opening pitch is set to be launched at 3 p.m. at Schoonover Stadium.

Contact baseball reporter Matt Gottfried at [email protected].