Saylor leads Flashes as they avoid sweep

Joe Murphy

Second baseman Drew Saylor may soon be known as Popeye the sailor for his power at the plate.

The junior homered three times yesterday and finished with seven RBI, as the Flashes pounded Marshall 20-6. Yesterday’s win allowed the Flashes (17-12, 3-4 Mid-American Conference) to avoid the sweep by the Thundering Herd (10-17, 5-4 MAC).

Saylor began his assault on the Herd with a two-run blast to center field in the top of the fifth inning, giving the Flashes a 6-0 lead.

Well, blow me down.

Saylor then added two more in the top of the eighth inning. The junior started the inning with a solo shot over the left-field fence. He then added a three-run bomb later in the inning, this time over the right-field fence.


Pinch hitter Will Vazquez plated the other four runs of the eighth inning with a grand slam. The three home runs in the inning put the Flashes up 20-0.

Marshall would score six runs combined in the eighth and ninth innings, but the Herd fell one short of Saylor.

Saylor 7, Marshall 6.

Three home runs would seemingly overshadow any other effort by a Flashes player. But coach Scott Stricklin sees it differently.

“For starters, Evan Smith was dominant on the mound,” he said. “He set the tone for the game.”

Smith pitched six scoreless innings, striking out three.

Saylor was overshadowed yet again by rightfielder Greg Rohan. The freshman started the scoring parade with a three-run shot in the top of the fourth inning.

“That got us going,” Stricklin said.

They wouldn’t stop until they had posted a season-high 20 runs on 18 hits. The Flashes, who had won three in a row going into the weekend, dropped close games on both Friday and Saturday, 8-5 and 8-6.

Three runs in the second inning of Friday’s game gave Kent State an early lead. Marshall came back to take a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning. A two-run homer in the seventh by third baseman Andrew Davis put the Flashes back on top at 5-4. Pitcher Jason Brunke carried the lead into the eighth when Brunke was relieved by Chad Wagler. Marshall scored four runs at Wagler’s (4-2) expense, giving the Herd an 8-5 lead. The Flashes hopes ended in the ninth when Saylor grounded into a game-ending double play.

“It was a very disappointing game,” Stricklin said. “We didn’t make the plays we needed to. That’s the bottom line.”

Kent State looked to jump out early again on Saturday, as it loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first. But the Flashes left the inning with a goose egg on the scoreboard, as first baseman Will Vazquez struck out looking and right fielder Greg Rohan flied out to center.

“We just couldn’t come up with the big hit,” Stricklin said. “We had opportunities to put some runs on the board. You have to give credit to their pitchers.”

Marshall responded in its half of the inning with four runs off freshman pitcher Chris Carpenter. Kent State tried to chip away at the lead with runs in the second, fifth and sixth innings, but Marshall added two in both the fourth and fifth innings. Marshall took an 8-3 lead into the ninth when the Flashes mounted a two-out rally. Three runs came across, but the game ended when pinch-hitter Andy Hargrove struck out swinging.

Despite only taking one of three from the Herd, Stricklin is optimistic about the upcoming week.

“We ended the weekend on a positive note,” he said. “All we can control is what happens today.”

Contact baseball reporter Joe Murphy at [email protected].