Pacella leads Flashes over Chippewas

Matt Gottfried

Junior tosses seven complete innings in victory over Central Michigan

Catcher Todd Balduf dives into home and scores a run in the seventh inning during yesterday’s 13-4 win over Central Michigan. The Flashes won two of three games in the series with Central Michigan. The Flashes have a home game at 3 p.m. tommorow against D

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Kent State junior starter John Pacella did something few pitchers managed to do in the Flashes’ Mid-American Conference clash with Central Michigan this past weekend.

He pitched through seven complete innings.

In a series that consisted of the MAC East Division leading Flashes (13-10, 4-2 MAC) and the MAC West leading Chippewas (14-12, 4-2 MAC), few hurlers were able to withstand the fierce offensive barrage inflicted by two of the conference’s most potent lineups.

Pacella, who entered the contest with a 4.00 ERA and a 1-0 record, tossed seven complete innings in the Flashes’ 13-4 victory. He surrendered just two runs on seven hits, while striking out seven in the process.

He was one of just two starters this weekend to make it through seven complete innings. Central Michigan ace Ty Dunham was the only other to accomplish the feat after throwing nine complete innings of 6-hit ball in the series opener Friday. The Flashes lost that game 7-5.

“He has been nothing but solid,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “J.J. (Pacella) has thrown nothing but strikes and every time he goes out there he competes and gives us a shot to win. He’s as reliable as you can get right now.

“We know he is going to throw strikes, and he didn’t walk anybody today, so when you don’t walk anyone or make errors you’re going to win a lot of games; that’s what happened today.”

Offensively the Flashes were led by junior shortstop Emmanuel Burriss, who went 3-of-4 on the day with three runs and a pair of RBIs. He also added a stolen base and a walk to go along with his team best .402 batting average.

Junior third baseman Andrew Davis also turned in a solid offensive performance, as he collected two singles and a double to go along with a pair of RBIs. However, his biggest hit of the afternoon was a single in the bottom of the fifth inning.

With the score tied at 2-2, Davis lined a 3-2 offering up the middle with two outs and the bases loaded. Two runs scored on that single, busting the game wide open for what became a 4-run inning and a 4-2 lead that the Flashes never looked back from.

“It’s one thing we preach about all the time, two-strike hitting,” Stricklin said. “You have to try and change your approach a little bit and hit it up the middle or down the line. A lot of guys did a great job executing today, and you’re going to win a lot of ball games when you do that.”

In the three-game series, the Flashes scored a total of 24 runs from innings four through nine. It was that late-inning scoring that Stricklin said his team has focused on all season.

“We talk about getting to the bullpen every day,” Stricklin said. “Their starter is the guy they feel is their best guy on that day, so we want to try and get into the bullpen early. It’s kind of our motto. Once you get into the bullpen, they start throwing more arms out there who haven’t thrown as often. We were able to get some big hits off them this weekend.”

A number of players got involved in knocking out the Chippewa starters early, as the team shelled out 30 hits in the final two games of the series. In addition to Davis’ and Burriss’ strong offensive performances this weekend, seniors Drew Saylor and Kurt Eichorn also continued to solidify the heart of the lineup.

Saylor lined two home runs in Saturday’s contest to add to his eight RBIs this weekend, while Eichorn continued to hit well en route to two-straight MAC Player of the Week honors. Freshman designated hitter Jason Patton also continued his hot hitting, as he collected five hits and four runs this weekend.

“I feel great about where our team is right now at this point in the season,” Stricklin said. “We’ve pitched a lot better than what we expected because we were really unsure of what to expect. We knew we had arms but were unsure of how they would respond in certain roles. Ryan Davis gave us a big outing Saturday, as well as Jason Seelman and Reid Lamport out of the bullpen this weekend. Every single outing our starters have been solid.”

Kent State will look to continue that trend this at 3 p.m. Tuesday, when it hosts Duquesne.

Contact baseball reporter Matt Gottfried at [email protected].