By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
Nothing like slapping around your rival relentlessly on Senior Night.
Kent State's seniors led a regular season-ending onslaught at Schoonover Stadium they'll cherish long after their respective baseball careers come to a close, starting with a nine-run first inning and ending with a merciless 19-0 thumping of rival Akron.
The Golden Flashes offense piled up 14 hits, 11 of which went for extra bases, while senior Michael Clark and four relievers combined on a two-hitter. You simply can't draw Senior Night up and any better.
"It's a good feeling tonight," said a smiling KSU first-year coach Jeff Duncan. "For the last three weeks, we've battled some really tough games, and to respond after the close one (Friday) night like we did today, especially in the first inning putting that nine-spot up ... it was good to see our offense click one through nine."
Seven of the Flashes' last nine games had been decided by one run, including both of Friday's contests against the Zips (25-28, 12-15), but there was no need for nail-biting on Saturday.
Doubles by senior T.J. Sutton and freshman Zach Beckner each plated a pair of runs, while junior Jeff Revesz drove home two more with a triple during the nine-run barrage in the opening frame that lasted 42 minutes and featured five extra-base hits all struck with extreme authority.
"We strung eight or nine quality at-bats together in a row, and we were able to put up a crooked number early," said Duncan. "Our goal was to get that starter out in four innings, and we exceeded that goal obviously."
Senior Cody Koch made it 12-0 with a bases-loaded double in the third, then Beckner belted his first homer of the year -- a three-run shot in the fourth as Kent State's cushion reached 16-0.
Beckner led the attack with a double, homer, four runs scored and five RBI. Seniors Jon Wilson and Troy Summers each had two hits and two RBI, while Sutton had a pair of RBI and Koch drove in three.
Clark took a no-hitter into the fifth, earning the win after allowing just one hit and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings of work, while a Flashes defense that has been suspect at times this season did not commit an error for the third time in the past four games.
"You can't write a better story, going out like that," said Wilson, who singled home the winning run in Friday's nightcap. "It was nice to get some momentum going into the tournament. Yeah we have more to play for in the tournament, but you still want to end (the regular season) on a high note. It's a good feeling to go in confident. Confidence is huge in this game."
With the win on the diamond, Kent State clinched the PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge -- an all-sports contest against backyard rival Akron. The Flashes (32-21, 16-11 MAC) also seized the No. 4 seed in the MAC Tournament, and will open against defending champion and No. 5 seed Bowling Green (25-24, 15-11) Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Avon.
The Falcons took two-of-three from Kent State during the regular season.
"We're excited to play Bowling Green because we didn't play great against them a couple weeks ago," said Duncan. "We're just going to take it one game at a time."
It wasn't all good news for Kent State, though, on Saturday.
Junior centerfielder Alex Miklos is officially lost for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury during Kent State's May 3 game against Northern Illinois.
Miklos tried to plant his cleat while backing up left fielder Jon Wilson, who dove for a ball in the gap, and his knee buckled. Golden Flashes coach Jeff Duncan confirmed on Saturday that Miklos suffered a torn ACL, and will have surgery this week.
Miklos leads KSU with a .362 average, 18 doubles, seven triples, a .593 slugging percentage, a .439 on-base percentage and 17 stolen bases despite missing the past seven games after suffering the injury. The third-year starter also made just two errors this season in centerfield.
Facebook: Allen Moff, Record-Courier