Record-Courier staff report
Saving junior lefty Brian Clark for the Mid-American Conference Baseball Tournament opener proved to be a wise decision for Kent State.
Clark, a former Stow High School star who served as the Golden Flashes' No. 3 starting pitcher throughout the MAC regular season, allowed just one earned run in a career-high 81⁄3 innings while leading his team to a 6-2 victory over defending champion Bowling Green on Wednesday at All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon.
No. 4 seed Kent State (33-21) will now take on top-seed Ball State (39-16) tonight at 8 p.m.
Clark (6-6) saved his best start for the biggest game of the season, allowing just five hits and two walks while striking out seven. He did not start in last week's regular season-ending series against Akron so he would be rested for the tourney opener.
"We gave him the weekend off, and that proved to be a good idea," said KSU first-year coach Jeff Duncan. "What a great performance by Brian Clark today, just a gutsy performance. He had really good stuff all day and got better as the day went on."
Clark retired 10 straight batters heading into the ninth inning, when the Falcons (25-26) scored their lone earned run on a walk and a pair of hits.
Clark was a star reliever for the Flashes the past two seasons, then struggled early this year after converting to the starting role. But he's now 5-2 with a 2.44 ERA against MAC competition.
Kent State broke the game open with a five-run fourth inning, which started with back-to-back singles by Troy Summers and Cody Koch.
Zarley Zalewski then ripped a bases-clearing triple to put Kent State up 2-0. Jeff Revesz followed with an RBI single before Curtis Olvey singled and Zach Beckner drove in two more runs with a double.
Beckner and Summer, playing in place of sidelined stars Sawyer Polen (mono) and Alex Miklos (knee), combined for three hits and a pair of RBI.
The Flashes added a run in the fifth on an RBI single by T.J. Sutton.
Kent State, which has now won three straight games after dropping eight of its previous 10, will now take on the Cardinals - who defeated them twice in last year's MAC tourney. Ball State knocked off No. 8 seed Western Michigan 5-3 on Wednesday.
"No better time for us than now to start getting hot," said Duncan. "We lost two series in the MAC all year, one happened to be Bowling Green and the other was Ball State. We'll be ready to go."