Baseball wins ninth-straight in series sweep over Northern Illinois

Kyle Kuchta, Reporter

Kent State’s baseball team pushed its winning streak to nine games, remaining undefeated at home (4-0) in a weekend sweep over Northern Illinois.

The Flashes put together 40 runs in the three-game series against NIU. The team is third in the conference in hits and tied for first in batting average at .296.

KSU is now 11-4 on the season and tied for first in the conference with Toledo at 3-0. This was the Flashes’ third series sweep of the year.

NIU is now 3-12 overall, making the team 2-10 when playing on the road. The Huskies’ losing streak moves to four in a row. Northern Illinois is tied for last in the conference at 0-3.

Game One 

Kent State won its first game 12-1 to kick off the series as the Flashes were able to compile 17 hits on two errors as a team.

KSU wasted no time, opening the first inning with a double down the right field line from junior first baseman Aidan Longwell, scoring graduate student outfielder Collin Mathews and junior infielder Kyle Jackson to make it 2-0.

Kent State had its biggest inning, scoring five runs. Sophomore infielder Connor Ashby, Jackson, Longwell, senior catcher Justin Miknis and junior infielder Michael McNamara all had an RBI in the inning, pushing the lead to 7-0.

KSU tallied one run in the fourth and fifth inning. A sacrifice fly from Longwell in the fourth and a solo HR from senior outfielder Josh Johnson in the fifth put KSU up 9-0. Sophomore outfielder Jake Casey went deep in the seventh on a solo shot to make it 10-0.

The Flashes continued to pile on in the eighth inning, adding two more runs to make it 12-0. Longwell scored on a fielding error and McNamara scored on a ground out.

NIU tallied its only run of the ball game in the ninth off of redshirt senior outfielder Jack Anderson’s sacrifice fly scoring junior outfielder Parker Shupe to make it 12-1.

Kent State’s redshirt senior pitcher Ben Cruikshank went seven innings of work, only allowing one hit with four walks. He had a season-high 11 strikeouts on 23 batters faced.

In his second straight outing Cruikshank took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before allowing a hit.

Game Two 

KSU scored 12 runs again as the Flashes took game two of the series 12-7.

Northern Illinois jumped out in the first inning as Kent State’s junior pitcher Joe Whitman allowed four runs.

Junior infielder Andre Demetral singled to left, scoring junior infielder Eric Erato. Demetral was able to score on a fielding error and sophomore catcher Kaden Kosobucki scored on a wild pitch as well for NIU.

Whitman’s day was done after three innings of work on five hits allowed and six punchouts, allowing four runs.

Kent State responded, tacking on five runs in the second inning off RBI’s from Mathews, Longwell and a triple from Miknis. In the third and fourth inning KSU added one run in each frame to make it a 7-4 game.

Kosobucki singled to right, scoring a run, cutting the lead to one. NIU’s junior infielder Andrew Smart tied the game at seven on a single to center plating Kosobucki.

KSU took the lead as Longwell kicked it off, scoring Mathews on a single to left field to make it a one run game. McNamara put it out of reach with a 3-run home run to left, making it 11-7. Ashby singled to left to score senior outfielder Josh Johnson for the final run of the game.

Game Three

NIU took the lead early again and led up until the seventh inning as KSU scored almost half of their runs in the seventh to win by a score of 16-10.

Northern Illinois started it off, putting up three runs off of sophomore pitcher Eric Chalus on three hits. Demetral and junior outfielder Colin Summerhill both had RBI-doubles in the first inning.

Kent State added three runs  in the bottom half of the first inning with three hits. Jackson started off the Flashes with a single.

KSU had runners on the corners after a Mathews single and then Longwell doubled to make it a two run game in the first. Mathews was able to score on a passed ball along with Miknis hitting an RBI-groundout to score Longwell. The score was tied at three after one.

The Huskies tacked on one run in the second and three more in the third. KSU brought the game within one in the third, scoring three runs to make it 7-6 NIU. Miknis tripled in the third run of the inning for his second of the series.

Northern Illinois added two more runs in the fourth inning off RBI’s from junior infielder Aaron Harper and Summerhill. The Flashes went scoreless in their half of the fourth.

KSU tacked on three runs in the fifth inning as McNamara went deep again in the series on a two-run shot to left. Miknis scored on the play to make it 10-9 after five innings of play.

Kent State scored seven runs in the eighth inning. Longwell  jumped on the first pitch with a single into center field, scoring Jackson. Longwell, Miknis, Johnson and senior outfielder Josh Mrozek all contributed with RBIs in the inning.

Johnson had a two-run single to get the lead to 13-10. Mrozek broke it open with a 3-run bomb off the scoreboard making it 16-10. Reagan Klawiter made a quick exit as he was pulled after just 10 pitches giving up three earned runs.

Freshman pitcher Jordan Kolenda got the win in relief as he retired nine-straight batters in a row before graduate student pitcher Mitchell Scott closed the door in the ninth on back-to-back strikeouts.

Chalus went three innings allowing six hits on six earned runs and three strikeouts. As a team KSU tallied 12 hits on 16 runs leaving six men on base and stealing six bases. NIU had nine hits on 10 runs striking out nine times.

Kent State will be back at home as Lake Erie comes to Kent on a three game losing streak as the Storm is 1-11 overall.

First pitch is Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Olga Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium.

Kyle Kuchta is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]