Flashes’ Hiller drops Dukes with miracle home run

Joshua Hudson

Senior Greg Hiller is congratulated by his teammates after his game-winning home run against Duquesne yesterday. The Flashes won 12-10.

Credit: Andrew popik

Before senior Gregg Hiller stepped to the plate in the ninth inning, he looked up above and asked for some extra help.

His prayers were answered when he hit a walk-off home run over the right-field wall to lift Kent State past Duquesne, 12-10, yesterday afternoon at Schoonover Stadium. Hiller said his dad, who passed away over spring break, gave him some extra help in his final at bat.

“He always used to come and watch me play, so I know he was here today,” he said. “I haven’t really played since he passed away, so it was nice to get back in there. I know he was watching.”

Hiller entered the game in the sixth inning with a group of other players from the bench. Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said Greg Rohan, Ben Whitney, Todd Balduf and Michael Obyc all came in to provide a spark off the bench.

“The guys that came out did nothing to make me pull them,” he said. “I just thought the guys on the bench could give us a spark. They practice just as hard as anyone, so I figured they should get a chance.”

The move paid off for Kent State (21-14). The Flashes rallied from a 10-3 deficit in the seventh inning and scored nine runs over the final three innings. But, according to Stricklin, the play of the game didn’t come off of someone’s bat. It was the patience of Obyc in earning a walk that got the Flashes rolling.

The freshman drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the seventh inning while facing Duquesne’s Jon Smith. Junior Joe Tucker singled to left and sophomore Andrew Davis hit a three-run homer to left.

“Obyc’s walk really got us going,” Stricklin said. “When we needed to make a play the guys stepped up and got the job done.”

Balduf would hit a three-run home run in the eighth to tie the game at 10. By then the momentum belonged to the Flashes.

Tucker led the way for the Flashes’ offense with three hits. Hiller added two hits and two RBIs while Balduf had three RBIs.

“Hitting is contagious, so hopefully we can take the momentum of this game into the weekend,” Balduf said. “Nobody has been hitting the ball recently. It’s nice to finally turn it around.”

Contact baseball reporter Joshua Hudson at [email protected].