The victory gave the Golden Flashes (39-16, 20-6 MAC), who will now host the MAC Tournament Wednesday through Saturday, their first conference title since 1996. They will take on sixth-seeded Northern Illinois (24-31, 12-15 MAC) in the first round Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Gene Michael Field.
Kent State failed to reach the 40-win plateau, as the Thundering Herd won the nightcap 8-7.
In the opener, Marshall (21-33-1, 7-20 MAC) scored four runs on six hits _ all singles _ off Flashes freshman starter Dirk Hayhurst to take a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning.
But Whitaker ripped a solo home run, the first of his Kent career, and fellow senior Jess Bechard (home run, double, single) added a solo shot of his own to bring his team within 4-2 in the sixth. The home run was Bechard's 300th career hit.
In the seventh, sophomore John VanBenschoten homered for the third consecutive game to cut the deficit to one. Then, after senior Ty Carpenter doubled and sophomore Dan Gutschmidt singled to move the tying run to third, Whitaker drove in pinch-runners Les Brock and Tom Martin with a triple down the right-field line to put Kent State on top 5-4.
Junior Chris Detweiler followed with an RBI single to give the Flashes an insurance run that they wouldn't need as senior closer Dan Adams struck out the final two batters to earn his 14th save. Redshirt freshman Chris White pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the victory.
In the nightcap, Flashes sophomore Jason Biniker coughed up five runs on seven hits in two innings of work as the Herd took a 5-1 lead. Marshall answered a two-run Kent State rally in the sixth with three runs in the home half of the inning to push its lead to 8-4, then withstood a three-run burst by the Flashes in the seventh to eke out the victory.
VanBenschoten homered for the fourth straight game, giving him 10 for the year, while Bechard hit his eighth homer. Freshman Pat O'Brien finished with two singles and two RBI, senior Alex Marconi ripped a double and single, and Whitaker added a pair of singles in the nightcap for Kent State.