Smith cranked a towering two-run home run over

By Allen Moff Record-Courier sports writer Published:

Smith cranked a towering two-run home run over the left-field wall in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Kent State baseball team a thrilling 6-4 come-from-behind victory over arch-rival Akron in game one of a doubleheader at Gene Michael Field on Saturday.

Then in the second game, it was the Flashes all the way as they cruised to a 9-4 victory with Cory Hartman getting the win. Kent is now 14-8 in the Mid-American Conference and 20-21 overall, while Akron dropped to 7-14 in the MAC and 11-27 overall.

The Golden Flashes trailed 4-1 after five innings in the opener, but scored three in the sixth to tie the game before Smith came through in a big way in the clutch.

"That's my job as a senior, to be a leader and get things done like that," said Smith, who entered play on Saturday with a team-high .410 batting average. "We needed a win to get back on track, so this was a huge game for us. It feels great."

Things looked bleak early on for Kent State.

The Zips, who have struggled immensely in '98, came out playing inspired baseball. Akron scored two runs in the first and third innings to build a 4-1 lead as cleanup hitter Joe Pukansky drove in a pair of runs with a single and a double.

Pukansky trotted home with the fourth run after Todd Mezlak delivered an RBI single off KSU starter Dustin Sampson, and Mezlak then moved up on what seemed to be a wild pitch. But Flashes' coach Rick Rembielak believed a foul-tip should have been called, and he let home plate umpire Elmer Farkas know about it for several minutes before he was ejected.

Was Rembielak really just trying to light a fire under his troops?

"I think so," said Smith, with a wink. "I don't know that we were flat, but I think we came in here lacking a little confidence after getting swept by Western Michigan (last Wednesday). I think (Rembielak) gave us a spark."

The spark didn't ignite immediately.

Former Field High School standout Ryan Moledor, making his third start of the year for Akron, skated through the first five innings allowing just one unearned run on four hits _ three of which were seeing-eye singles.

But the Flashes finally broke through in the sixth.

Jess Bechard lined a single to center to open the inning, then Ty Carpenter reached on a walk and Cary Zamilski singled to load the bases with one out.

Senior left-hander Joe Header relieved Moledor and uncorked a wild pitch to score Bechard before recording the second out. But Chris Holick came through with a two-out single up the middle to tie the game at 4.

Kent State reliever Shawn Gillespie set down the Zips in order in the seventh while Bechard singled with one out to set the stage for Smith, who had made three rather weak outs before his final, fatal at-bat.

"I just tried to put the first three at-bats behind me and stick with it," said Smith. "I wanted to relax and put a good swing on it. He threw me a curveball before and I got a good look at it, so I was sitting on it."

Header's 2-1 curve floated right into Smith's wheelhouse and he sent it high and deep over the left-field wall for his seventh home run of the season.

Bechard was 3-for-3 with three singles to pace the KSU offense, while Sam Crea and Zamilski added two singles each.

Gillespie (1-2) pitched 41/3 innings of shutout relief to earn the win. Moledor allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts in 51/3 innings, but pitched much better than his numbers indicate.

In the second game, the Flashes were behind 2-0 in the first inning, thanks to a solo home run by Brian Roberts and an unearned run that scored on an error.

In the bottom of the first, Kent tallied four runs as Raul Leoni singled, Bechard walked, Smith doubled and Carpenter singled.

Kent added four more runs in the second and one in the third.

Akron tried to stem the tide by using four pitchers but it was Kent's day as the Flashes combined for nine hits.

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