Offensively in check

Joe Murphy

Flashes’ offense held in check until seventh inning spark

Chris Carpenter pitched 5 1/3 innings allowing no runs on five hits against Akron Saturday. Kent State lost Friday and Saturday but pulled out a 7-2 win against the Zips yesterday.

Credit: Beth Rankin

Strike flint and steel against each other and you get a spark.

For the Flashes, put two hits together and the whole team catches fire.

The fire didn’t start until the seventh inning of the Flashes’ third and final game of the weekend series against Akron yesterday.

Throughout the first half of the season, the Flashes have had their share of long offensive droughts. They’ve also shown it takes only one hit to break out.

Through six innings yesterday, Kent State (20-14, 4-6 Mid-American Conference) showed the same struggles on offense. But a four-run seventh inning gave the Flashes a 6-2 lead and an eventual 7-2 win to avoid the sweep.

The Flashes scored two runs combined in the first two games of their weekend series with Akron, losing 4-2 and 2-0 Friday and Saturday.

Last weekend against Marshall, Greg Rohan’s three-run homer in the top of the fourth helped the Flashes’ snap out of a slump. The team would go on to score 17 more runs the next four innings.

Yesterday, it was left fielder Chuck Moore’s turn.

It wasn’t a three-run homer, but it still sparked the team. The senior doubled off the center-field wall to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Right fielder Eric Holick then faked a bunt and slapped a base hit up the middle to bring Moore home and break the 2-2 tie. A Joe Tucker single drove home the next run with one out. Holick then scored the next run on a throwing error to first. The fourth and final run of the inning came from a botched transfer on a double play possibility.

Holick said the offense needed to respond to Akron’s two runs in the top of the seventh.

“That hit was very important,” he said. “They came back and tied the game. We needed a jump-start from anybody. We’ve been hitting the ball all weekend; we just haven’t been lucky enough. Now things just fell our way today.”

Sophomore pitcher Evan Smith’s performance was only good enough for a no-decision. Smith went 6.1 innings and gave up the two runs in the top of the seventh. Jon Miller picked up the win in relief. The Flashes’ starting pitchers went a combined 18 innings and gave up just five runs. The result was two no-decisions and a loss for Smith, Jason Brunke and Chris Carpenter.

Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said he once again looks for yesterday’s win to give his team momentum heading into the week. Kent State’s win last Sunday lead to wins on Tuesday and Wednesday. Stricklin hopes the team’s success can expand into the weekend.

“We need to take care of business on Friday,” Stricklin said. “We lost two tough games this weekend. Our pitchers have done their job. We’ve stayed together and stayed positive.”

Solid outings by the Flashes’ starters only amounted to a 1-2 record over the weekend against the rival Zips (13-20, 4-3 MAC).

On Friday, Akron’s Ross Liersemann shut down Kent State’s offense, pitching a one-hitter through seven innings. The Flashes only walked away with a Kurt Eichorn two-run single in the ninth to show.

Akron’s Tom Farmer outpitched his teammate on Saturday, as he and Darek Stanfield combined for a shutout. Kent State’s top five batters in the lineup combined for a 1-for-15 afternoon.

Kent State has home games this week against Duquesne and Pittsburgh tomorrow and Wednesday. The team then heads to Bowling Green for a weekend matchup against the Falcons.

Contact baseball reporter Joe Murphy at [email protected].