Flashes Open Can of Mace on Eagles
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio - Survive and advance.
After a thrilling 4-3 win over Toledo in 11 innings in the first game of the day, the Golden Flashes had a little bit more breathing room in the nightcap. Kent State (37-23) scored five runs in both the seventh and eighth innings as it downed Eastern Michigan (27-31) 15-1.
It was another fantastic outing for the KSU starting pitching. Sophomore Ryan Mace (2-4), making his first start since April 14, gave up only a solo home run and two other hits while walking three and striking out three.
"Ryan Mace was outstanding and our starting pitching the last three games has been unbelievable," said head coach Scott Stricklin. "Mace has not been able to throw a lot lately because he has had a stiff neck so for him to give us seven innings tonight is remarkable."
Kent State clung to a 5-1 lead through the first six innings, thanks to fifth-year senior Jared Humphreys. He went 5-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBI's, including a solo bomb to left center to give the Golden Flashes a 4-0 lead after two innings.
"Jared is just a leader," said Stricklin. "He has played really well in the tournament as he had the game-winning hit against Toledo and had five hits tonight. He is the leadoff guy, sets the table for us and plays great in center field. This is exactly what you need from your fifth-year senior captains."
Junior Ben Klafczynski had a home run in three at-bats, but he made the most of it with a KSU's seventh grand slam of the year in the seventh inning.
Sophomore David Lyon went 3-for-4 with two RBI's and a run scored while sophomores Jimmy Rider and Travis Shaw and freshman Evan Campbell added a pair of hits for the Flashes.
Steve Weber (2-6) took the loss for Eastern Michigan, allowing five runs (four earned) and six hits in 2.1 innings. Wally Gerbus provided the only offense for the Eagles, hitting a solo home run in the bottom of the third.
Kent State jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first, thanks to a huge catcher's interference call that prevented a double play. After Humphreys singled to begin the inning, Klafczynski hit a comebacker to the mound that jump-started what appeared to be a twin killer. However, the home plate umpire called EMU's Matt Skirving for interference to put two men on with no out.
After a strikeout, Shaw legged out a ground ball to the shortstop to load the bases. Sophomore Kyle McMillen singled to right field to move up everyone up 90 feet and put the Flashes up 1-0. A two-RBI single gave Kent State the three-run advantage.
A solo home run by Humphreys made it 4-0 Kent State after two, the Flashes added another single tally in the third to go up by five with a two-out RBI infield single by Lyon. Senior Anthony Gallas doubled and McMillen walked with one out. A balk moved both runners into scoring position, but a groundout to the pitcher gave Eastern Michigan a chance to get out of the inning without further damage. However, Lyon grounded sharply to the shortstop and beat the throw to first to put KSU up 5-0.
The Eagles answered with a solo home run in the bottom of the third, but Mace was able to pitch out of his own jams to preserve the KSU lead. A pair of walks and a single loaded the bases for Eastern Michigan in the fourth to bring the tying run to the plate, but Daniel Russell lined out to Humphreys in center to end the EMU threat. An error and a wild pitch put another runner Eagles' runner in scoring position with two outs in the sixth, but Mace struck out Todd Graves to end the frame.
"Mace was really good and he didn't get rattled," Stricklin said. "You could tell he was getting a little fatigued in the fifth inning as he was getting behind in the count, but he battled and competed. I'm proud of him."
Kent State gave Mace some much-needed run support in the top of the seventh. With one out, Rider, Lyon and Campbell singled to put Kent State up 6-1. Eastern Michigan looked like it would escape further damage when fifth-year senior Cory Hindel hit a foul pop out, but Humphreys kept the inning alive with a single to third to load the bases. On the 1-1 pitch, Klafczynski smashed the pitch over the right field wall to give Kent State a 10-1 cushion.
"Ben's hit gave us a lot of breathing room," Stricklin said. "It was a 6-1 lead at the time and while it was a comfortable lead, but they were still getting guys on base and they were threatening. We needed to put them away and Ben's grand slam did it."
Coming out for the seventh, Mace got out of another jam. With one out, Mace walked a guy and hit another to put two on, but a fly out and a ground out kept Eastern Michigan off the board for the fourth-straight inning.
In the eighth, Kent State put Eastern Michigan away with another five spot. Shaw doubled and McMillen walked to load the bases. Rider then grounded into a fielder's choice, but Shaw was safe at third to load the bases with no outs. Lyon added a sacrifice fly before the bases were reloaded on a Campbell single. Hindel shot one of the pitcher's mound to plate two more runs. Humphreys added a two-run double to cap the scoring with the Flashes up 15.
Freshman Casey Wilson and redshirt freshman David Wright threw scoreless eighth and ninth innings to close the game.
With the fine performance by Mace, he joins a long line of Kent State pitchers who have provided huge MAC tournament performances.Steve Ross came up big in 2006, Alan Morrison in '07, Brad Stillings and Kyle Hallock in '08 and Kyle Smith in '09.
Kent State returns to action tomorrow against the same Eastern Michigan Eagles at 3 p.m.