By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
Alex Miklos' game-winning hit by pitch served as a fitting ending to a brutal day on the diamond for the Kent State and Northern Illinois baseball teams.
But someone had to win. And a Golden Flashes squad reeling somewhat after absorbing three straight defeats is certainly grateful to be that someone.
Miklos took a 1-2 slider from Huskies reliever Ben Neumann in the front leg with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning to plate the game-winning run, giving Kent State (29-16, 13-6 Mid-American Conference) a 4-3 victory over Northern Illinois (14-31, 8-11) on a chilly Friday night at Schoonover Stadium.
"(Miklos) did a good job, did what he's supposed to do," said KSU coach Jeff Duncan. "He didn't move his feet, held his ground. Any way you can win, just find a way, and we did that."
Doing what you're supposed to do was not an easy feat for either of these teams, which combined for seven errors along with various other silly miscues. But two players in particular entered the fray just in time to rescue the MAC East Division-leading Flashes, who trailed 3-1 after making error No. 3 in the seventh inning.
Junior shortstop Sawyer Polen, who was not in the starting lineup for the first time in conference play this season after suffering a knee injury during last Wednesday's loss to Youngstown State, entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh after freshman Zach Beckner made his second throwing error.
"He came out (before the game), and I just didn't feel comfortable starting him," said Duncan, who admitted that he didn't plan to play Polen. "The situation kind of dictated using him."
Polen delivered an RBI single to trim the deficit to 3-2, then senior Jon Wilson tied it with an RBI single to left-center.
"I got about three seconds to warm up," Polen smiled. "Coach (Duncan) always talks about being ready even when you're on the bench, coming in and trying to give a spark, be ready to hit."
Polen added a key sacrifice bunt in the ninth, moving junior Jeff Revesz (2-for-4) to third with one out. Two walks later, Revesz scored the winning run when Miklos got plunked.
The other late-arriving hero was junior reliever Dan Kopcak, who tossed three solid innings to earn his fourth win of the year without a defeat. The former Streetsboro High School star allowed two hits and one unearned run with one strikeout.
"He's been really good. He's got really good stuff," said Duncan. "His fastball is really lively and late, jumps out of his hand. He's been doing a good job for us, and we have a lot of confidence in him."
Freshman ace Eric Lauer bounced back from a pair of rough outings by pitching six solid innings, allowing four hits and two runs with two walks and seven strikeouts.
When the dust cleared, the Flashes were happy to get the win but certainly not content.
"If you win you feel a little bit better, but we have to know going forward we have to clean up a lot of our mistakes," said Polen. "Tomorrow's a new day. The focus will be there tomorrow."
The two teams will meet again tonight at 6 p.m.
Facebook: Allen Moff, Record-Courier