Busting out the brooms

Sean Joseph

Senior catcher Todd Balduf is greeted by his teammates after hitting a home run against Miami yesterday at Schoonover Stadium. Kent State won 5-3 and swept Miami in the weekend’s three-game series. ARIANE R. CAVIN | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Kent State baseball coach Scott Stricklin said revenge was sweet for his team after it swept Miami in a three-game series over the weekend and gained sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the Mid-American Conference.

The RedHawks swept the Flashes in their last home series last season. Stricklin said they hung a picture of the 2004-2005 squad up in the locker room and have been constantly reminded how much it hurt to end the season that way.

Kent State shut out Miami 11-0 on Friday and only allowed them one run in a 3-1 victory on Saturday. MAC Pitcher of the Week junior J.J. Pacella allowed five hits and two runs in seven innings to lead the Flashes to a 5-3 victory over Miami yesterday for the sweep.

“It was very hard to lose like we did to Miami last year on our home field,” Stricklin said. “We played hard with emotion and passion and got the job done.”

Senior pitcher Chad Wagler established the Flashes’ dominance for the weekend after allowing only three hits and no runs in eight innings Friday. Kent State had 13 hits in the game and burned Miami ace sophomore John Ely, who had a 3.89 ERA and a 4-1 record coming into the game, for nine runs.

Sophomore pitcher Steve Ross won his third-straight decision and allowed only one run and four hits in almost seven innings Saturday. The Flashes only put up three runs in the first three innings, but sophomore relief-pitcher Reid Lamport struck out three and put away all seven batters he faced to earn his first save of the season.

“We pitched good, played good defense, got bunts down and did all the little things we needed to win games,” Stricklin said. “We don’t want to be cocky, but want to be confident. They are a great team and could pitch for anyone in the country.”

Yesterday, Kent State put up nine runs, compared to the Miami’s series-high six. The Flashes got two of those hits off Miami’s junior pitcher Kieth Weiser’s first three pitches of the game. Junior shortstop Emmanuel Burriss opened up with a single off the first pitch of the game, followed by a double from senior center fielder Joe Tucker.

The game was tied 2-2 after the second inning. Home runs by senior catcher Todd Balduf in the third and senior first-baseman Drew Saylor in the seventh made the difference in the game and earned the Flashes the sweep.

“We knew coming into this game that it could be close,” Balduf said after yesterday’s game. “I was fortunate enough to be the one who got the good pitch and help make the difference.

“This was a huge sweep after what happened last year (against Miami). It’s big for the standings too. As long as we keep winning, we’ll continue to have our lead and hosting (in the MAC Tournament) is obviously the ultimate goal.”

The Flashes distanced themselves in conference standings from the pre-season favorite RedHawks by five games. They are now two games ahead of the Bowling Green Falcons for the No. 1 spot in the MAC East Division and a game ahead of Central Michigan for the lead in the MAC.

Kent State is next in action tomorrow at Cleveland State. The Flashes’ next home game is at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Contact baseball reporter Sean Joseph at [email protected]