Record-Courier staff report
Charlotte, N.C. — It may have taken ten innings, but the Kent State baseball team was able to hold off host Charlotte in the weekend finale on Sunday to earn its first series win of the season, 7-5.
“It was good to win the series,” Golden Flashes coach Scott Stricklin said. “I thought our kids competed. We made some mistakes, but that’s going to happen early in the year. I think the most important thing is our guys found a way to win late in the game when the odds were stacked against us.”
After the 49ers (10-4) came back to tie the game at five in the bottom of the ninth, scoring an unearned run on an error, KSU’s Evan Campbell cleared the bases in the 10th on a two-run triple to plate what would be the winning runs.
KSU’s Nick Jensen-Clagg came in the game in the bottom of the inning and did not allow a hit or a run to earn his first save of the season.
Kent State (4-10) got on the board early to start the game, scoring three runs in the first inning. Derek Toadvine led of the game with a walk and stole second. Campbell earned a walk behind him, and both came in to score. Sawyer Polen picked up an RBI on a base hit to score Toadvine, then Campbell came around to score in the next at-bat on a throwing error. Polen scored the third run of the inning when Zarley Zalewski was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
The Golden Flashes held on to a 3-0 lead until the 49ers scored two in the fifth on back-to-back singles and two wild pitches.
Kent State looked to stay out of danger with an insurance run in the seventh when Toadvine again walked and came around to score on a flyout by Polen.
Charlotte answered right back in the bottom of the inning with two runs to tie the game at 4-4.
The Golden Flashes answered right back, scoring a go-ahead run in the eighth on singles by Justin Wagler and Jeff Revesz.
However, the 49ers were not about to go down easily as they sent the game into extra innings.
Seven different players registered a hit for Kent State. Polen finished off a good weekend by going 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored. Campbell went 2-for-5 with two RBI and the game-winning triple, the Flashes’ only extra-base hit of the contest. Nearly every position player that made the trip to Charlotte this weekend saw action, showcasing the depth of the Kent State bench.
“It’s positive to have that kind of depth. and developing that — along with George Roberts coming back — we feel like offensively we’ve got some options,” Stricklin said. “To me, the most important thing is when you get late in games you can bring in guys to pinch-hit or pinch-run or put a bunt down, and we’ve had some guys that have been able to do that.”
Casey Wilson pitched well in the start, going six innings with two runs, five hits, four walks and three strikeouts. Five different pitchers finished out the last four innings, with a combined three runs (1 earned), three hits, three walks and six strikeouts. Brian Clark was awarded the win (1-1) after throwing 1⁄3 of an inning to get out of trouble in the ninth.
“Some guys look good and some guys are still struggling,” said Stricklin of the bullpen. “We’re trying to get them out there as much as possible and put them in stressful situations so they can adjust and try to get the job done once we get late in the year. Our bullpen ended up winning us that game with guys that got those final outs.”
The win gave the Golden Flashes their first series win of the season, but improvement still needs to be made in areas of their game to become the championship-caliber team they are projected to be.
“I still don’t think we’re there yet,” Stricklin said. “We still have a ways to go. We’re happy with the win, we’re happy with the series win, but we can’t be satisfied. We still have to fix some things and still have to execute a little bit better.”
The Golden Flashes travel next to Memphis for another three-game series Friday-Sunday.
“It’s another big challenge. Memphis is very good,” Stricklin said. “We’re going to have to play better than we did this week to come out of there with a series win.”