Pair of Sunday Wins Give Kent State Baseball Johnny Gill Memorial Tournament Title
ROCK HILL, S.C. -- The Kent State baseball team earned a pair of Sunday (Feb. 27) victories at The Winthrop Ballpark to clinch the Johnny Gill Memorial Tournament title. The Golden Flashes (5-2, 0-0) ran their win streak to five games and were victorious in all four tournament games after cruising to a 13-2 triumph over Wagner and holding off host Winthrop, 8-6.
Kent State outscored the opposition 46-10 in the weekend tournament while the pitching staff allowed only seven earned runs and three extra-base hits and limited the opposition to a collective .232 batting average in four games.
"I thought we pitched very well as a team and our team defense was outstanding today," said seventh-year head coach Scott Stricklin. "We came up with some big plays when we needed them, and that was the key to our wins."
Senior right fielder Ben Klafczynski (Granger Township, Ohio) continued his white-hot start to the 2011 season, going 10-for-17 for a .588 batting average, eight RBIs, nine runs and four extra-base hits over the weekend. He is hitting .567 on the season and has posted seven straight multi-hit games. Junior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) has been just as strong offensively, extending his hitting streak to seven games. He posted a .475 batting average during the Johnny Gill Memorial Tournament with 10 hits, six RBIs and six runs scored.
"Ben's been our best hitter, but we have a lot of guys who have good at-bats," said Stricklin. "Ben's been the leader so far and has been swinging the bat as well as I've seen anybody hit over a two-week period."
KENT STATE 13, WAGNER 2
The Flashes scored runs in six frames – including three multi-score innings – while junior right-handed starting pitcher Ryan Mace (Tallmadge, Ohio) threw six innings of four-hit ball and struck out two to propel Kent State to victory.
"Ryan threw a lot of strikes," said Stricklin. "He just suffocated the strike zone and forced them to swing the bat."
Mace did not surrender an earned run and evened his season record at 1-1 with the mound triumph.
Rider led the way at the plate with a 4-for-6 effort - including two doubles - with three RBIs and a run scored. Klafczynski also posted two doubles and three RBIs in addition to scoring two runs. Junior designated hitter David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.) smacked his first home run of the season to go along with a base hit and drove in three scores. Sophomore center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio) also enjoyed a multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with three runs scored while junior third baseman Travis Shaw (Washington Court House, Ohio) posted two singles, an RBI and a run scored.
Campbell got the scoring started for Kent State in the first inning after drawing a walk and scoring on a sacrifice fly to left by Shaw.
After Mace sat the Seahawks (1-3, 0-0) down in order in the bottom half, the Flashes gave their starting hurler more insurance with three runs in the following frame. Freshman first baseman Cody Koch (Sandusky, Ohio) drew a one-out walk, and sophomore catcher Jason Bagoly (Austintown, Ohio) was hit by a pitch to put two men on. Freshman second baseman Derek Toadvine (Springfield, Ohio) drove home Koch with a double to right center. Rider brought around Bagoly with a base hit to left center. Klafczynski served up a sacrifice fly to right to allow Toadvine to tag up and score and extend Kent State's lead to 4-0.
Campbell made it a five-run lead after smacking a leadoff triple to right center and scoring on a double to left by Rider.
Wagner cut into Kent State's advantage with a run in the fourth, but Kent State responded with three scores in the sixth. Campbell once again started the big inning, this time with a leadoff single to left. Rider doubled to right to put runners at second and third for Klafczynski, who delivered a two-RBI double to left center. A single to right by Shaw put Klafczynski at third. Freshman left fielder T.J. Sutton (Uniontown, Ohio) grounded into a double play, but Klafczynski scored to make it 8-1 in favor of the Flashes.
Kent State's advantage swelled to nine in the seventh when Bagoly walked and then scored on a failed pickoff attempt by Wagner. Toadvine made the score 10-1 after reaching base on a fielder's choice and scoring on a single by Rider.
Wagner cut Kent State's lead to eight in the seventh, but that's as close as the Seahawks got. Klafczynski smacked a two-out base hit to right, and Shaw drew a walk to set the table for Lyon's three-run blast to right in the top of the ninth.
Senior right-handed starter Jon Lucas was saddled with the pitching loss for Wagner. He allowed five runs – four earned – on six hits and struck out two in four innings. Senior first baseman Jack Rice led the Seahawks at the plate with two singles.
KENT STATE 8, WINTHROP 6
Kent State plated five of its eight runs in the first two innings and held off a late charge by the Eagles (2-5, 0-0).
Junior southpaw starting pitcher David Starn (Hudson, Ohio) upped his record to 2-0 after working six innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits and striking out three.
Klafczynski and Toadvine led the way at the plate with three hits apiece, including a triple, a home run, three RBIs and three runs scored by Klafczynski and three singles and two runs scored by Toadvine. Campbell contributed two singles, two RBIs and a run scored in the victory.
Campbell got Kent State's offense started right away in the first, leading off with a single to right and then stealing second. Rider followed with a base hit to short, and Klafczynski brought around Campbell with a single to left center. Klafczynski made it 2-0 when he scored courtesy of an error at second that put Sutton on.
The Flashes made it 5-0 in the second. Redshirt junior left fielder Joe Koch (Youngstown, Ohio) led off with a double to right. Toadvine laid down a bunt single to move Koch to third, and Koch then scored on an error. Toadvine tagged up and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Campbell. One out later, Klafczynski smashed a round tripper right.
Kent State ran its lead to 7-0 in the fourth. Toadvine got things rolling with a leadoff single to left center, and Klafczynski brought him home with a two-out triple down the right field line. Shaw plated Klafczynski with a double to right center.
Winthrop scored a run in the bottom of the frame, but Kent State made it a seven-run lead again in the fifth when Sutton led off with a double to left center and scored on a single to center by Campbell.
Winthrop posted single runs in the fifth and seventh but mounted a three-run comeback in the bottom of the ninth. With runners on second and third and the winning run at the plate with two outs, Kent State junior righty Kyle McMillen (North Canton, Ohio) enter the game and came up big in the high-pressure spot, recording a strikeout to earn his first save of the season and preserve Kent State's win.
"It was great to see by Kyle," said Stricklin. "He was able to come in and get their best hitter out on three pitches. It's great to have him back and contributing."
Winthrop senior starting righthander Matteo D'Angelo took the pitching loss after surrendering seven runs – four earned – on nine hits in four innings. Four Eagles finished the contest with two hits, including a double and a single by junior third baseman Chas Crane.
The Golden Flashes travel to Louisville next weekend (March 4-6) with a three-game set against the No. 16 Cardinals.