By Allen Moff | Staff writer
Kent State baseball coach Scott Stricklin takes a look back at games played last weekend.
Friday's Result: Charlotte 5, Kent State 4
Saturday's Result: Kent State 2, Charlotte 1
Sunday's Result: Kent State 7, Charlotte 5 (10 inn.)
Overall Record: 4-10
Stricklin's Assessment of the Weekend: "Any time you go down south and play a quality team like UNC Charlotte and come away with a series win, you have to be happy. But as a coach, we always wish we could feel as good about the wins as we feel bad about the losses. We still have some things we need to fix. The bullpen and defense are gonna get better as we go along. This weekend was a positive sign. We started to move in the right direction. We came back on Sunday from some adversity to get the series clinching win, so there's some positives and still some things that we can work on to get better. We're not where we need to be yet, but we're usually not where we need to be until we get into May and early June. We still have to be patient and try to grind it out and do the best we can right now."
"Our starting rotation was very good. (Juniors Tyler) Skulina, (Taylor) Williams and (senior Casey) Wilson all had very good starts for us, so that's a positive. Tyler Skulina on Friday deserved to win. He had a 4-2 lead (after 7 innings) and we took him out, he was at his pitch count. We had some things go against late in the game to lose it in heartbreaking fashion, which we've done a few times. It's frustrating and disappointing, but Tyler Skulna was really good."
"We're gonna keep taking positives from that. Taylor Williams (complete-game victory on Saturday) didn't have his best stuff. He wasn't as sharp as he was the previous weekend, but he really competed. I think that was the most encouraging thing, he got such good results when he didn't have his best stuff. I think that's the sign of a great pitcher. He threw a complete game when we needed it. Then on Sunday we needed Casey Wilson to go out and give us five strong innings, and he ended up giving us six and left with the lead 4-2. That's really all you can ask of your Sunday starter is to get you to the seventh inning with the lead. All three guys in the rotation had a very good weekend, and that's a very positive thing for us moving forward."
The bullpen failed to preserve leads on Friday and Sunday.
"We've got a lot of talent in that bullpen, and right now for whatever reason, they're lacking some confidence. They've had some things go against them, some bad bounces, but also they haven't made the pitches that they've needed to make. A lot of guys have gotten some opportunities and just been inconsistent. I think that will come with time. Those guys are too talented, and they've had too much success in the past to struggle for very much longer. We're gonna stick with those guys and trust that they're gonna get better."
"We had a chance to really score a lot of runs on Friday. We were winning 4-1 and really playing well, and next thing you know we don't get a base-runner for the last four innings. Their pitcher completely shut us out and we let them back in the game because our offense stalled, and that was frustrating. Then on Saturday, we only scored two runs. We struggled to get runs across the board, but fortunately Taylor Williams was so good we only needed two to win. Then on Sunday, we scored three runs right out of the gate in the first inning and had them on the ropes, then didn't score again until the seventh inning. I think it's just a product of being early in the year. We've been inconsistent -- there's been some bright spots, but also some down times where we just need to improve and have some better at-bats and have better approaches at the plate. We're hoping that time and some experience will cure those things. (Sophomore infielder) Sawyer Polen (6 hits) had the best weekend overall. (Senior outfielder) Evan Campbell had the big hit with two outs in the top of the 10th on Sunday. That was the clutch hit of the weekend. But overall we were just very average this weekend offensively."
Polen, who started the year at second base, saw some action at shortstop and third base as the Flashes attempt to shore up their infield defense.
"Our defense still has a ways to go. We've made some errors behind our pitching staff that have made us throw extra pitches that put us in tough situations."
Key Stats: Kent State's three starters combined to allow just five earned runs in 22 innings (2.05 ERA); the defense committed five errors on the weekend and has now made 33 errors in the first 14 games of the season (.939 fielding percentage).
Next: Kent State will play a three-game set at Memphis (9-5) from Friday through Sunday.