Once struggling Kent State baseball team has now won two straight series

By Allen Moff | Staff writer Published:

Kent State baseball coach Scott Stricklin takes a look back at games played last weekend.

Friday's Result: Memphis 12, Kent State 7

Saturday's Result: Kent State 9, Memphis 1

Sunday's Result: Kent State 4, Memphis 2 (10 inn.)

Record: 6-11

Stricklin's Assessment of the Weekend: "It's encouraging to win another series on the road this early in the year. Playing the competition that we're playing and having to play on the road is very difficult. Memphis is a really good team. They swept Missouri early in the year, they beat Ole Miss, who is ranked in the top 10, they beat Alabama last week. To go into Memphis and win a series, that shows that our kids are coming around and starting to play the way that we all expect them to play. Overall, the things that have hounded us the first four weekends got better this weekend. Our defense was better overall and our bullpen was much better overall. I think we're moving in the right direction. The one thing we knew would happen was, as we got outside more and played more games, we would get better. The tough thing is now we come home and we've gotta practice inside three more days, then get ready to play."

Starting pitching

Junior ace Tyler Skulina lost the opener, but junior Taylor Williams and senior Casey Wilson pitched exceptionally well.

"Tyler didn't pitch great, but he didn't pitch as bad as his linescore looks (5 2/3 innings, 4 hits, 4 walks, 5 earned runs). We didn't do anything behind him to help him defensively. Tyler's gonna be fine. He's had a couple of rough outings, but his stuff is way too good. I'm not concerned about Tyler Skulina.

Taylor Williams was great again, and that's probably the best outing of Casey Wilson's career, especially against a good offensive team like Memphis. Taylor Williams has been great all year long, and Casey Wilson's last two starts have been really good. I'm really encouraged by our starting pitching and where that's gonna take us."

Relief pitching

"Friday was not ideal, but on Saturday (sophomore) Brian Clark came in and pitched two scoreless innings. And (Sunday) it was really encouraging to see (sophomore) Josh Pierce come in -- in a jam -- first and third and one out, and get a big strikeout in the bottom of the eighth with the winning run on third base, then get a flyout to get us out of the inning. Then (freshman) Nick Jensen-Clagg came in and threw two scoreless innings to get the win."

Offense

"I thought we swung the bats real well all three games. We didn't score a bunch of runs (Sunday), but I do think we executed pretty well. Their pitching was very good too. Overall very positive offensively."

Defense

The Flashes struggled mightily in bunt situations during Friday's loss.

"They sacrificed bunted four times and we didn't get an out anywhere all four times, which is just inexcusable. It was as poorly as you can defend (the bunt). We told the players as a coaching staff we take full responsibility for that. If they're not ready to defend the bunt that's on us. We addressed it, and obviously on Saturday and Sunday they're gonna try to do the same thing and we corrected the issue for the most part."

Junior Derek Toadvine, last year's starting second baseman, had been struggling since moving to shortstop. Toadvine has been moved back to second, and sophomore Sawyer Polen has moved from second base to shortstop.

George Roberts Update

Roberts, a preseason All-American who broke the hamate bone in his left wrist during his third at-bat of the season, played in all three games over the weekend. He had a hit in each game and drove in three runs.

"When it first happened I looked at the calendar and I was hoping for week three of the MAC season. It was three weeks to the day after the surgery we had him back in the lineup, and to be honest he probably could have played last week in Charlotte but we held him out. He looked really good, made a quick recovery. With that surgery once the hamate bone is removed it just becomes a pain tolerance thing, so that tells you how tough a kid George is. Most guys in the big leagues are out six to seven weeks with that injury, and George was out three."

Stricklin's Assessment of the Non-Conference Season: "After the last two weekends we're getting closer to where we need to be. I was disappointed in the way we played the first three weekends, but we're making progress. No one wants to be 6-11, but our strength of schedule is No. 1 in the country and our RPI is 14th in the country. And we've played poorly. We've given some games away, but the quality of competition we play will do nothing but help us down the road."

Schedule Update: Kent State has already cancelled its home opener against Pittsburgh that was scheduled for Wednesday.

"The forecast is 33 degrees with 20 mile-per-hour winds and snow."

Next: Kent State will open MAC play against Northern Illinois (4-15) this weekend. The series is scheduled to be played in DeKalb, Ill., but that could change according to Stricklin.

"They have a natural grass field and they don't think the field is going to be playable. They're looking at alternate sites close to them, but it's not looking good. Our conference has a by-law that says we can switch sites, so there's a decent chance that we could play this weekend in Kent. We would be the visitor on the scoreboard. We should know that (today)."

-- Allen Moff

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