Kent State Baseball Fends Off Houston To End Weekend Series With Win
HOUSTON -- The Kent State baseball team broke a 5-all tie in the top of the eighth inning and held off a push by Houston in the bottom of the ninth to end the weekend series with an 8-5 win Sunday (March 20) at Cougar Field.
"We got some big hits today and played better today," said seventh-year head coach Scott Stricklin. "I saw some pretty positive things and it was nice to have the offense come through for us."
The very top and very bottom of the Kent State (9-8, 0-0) order provided the offensive spark for the Golden Flashes. Redshirt junior left fielder Joe Koch (Youngstown, Ohio) enjoyed his fourth multi-hit outing in six games, totaling a career-high three hits -- including a double – with two RBIs and two runs scored while leading off for the first time this season. Freshman second baseman Derek Toadvine (Springfield, Ohio) continued to excel from the ninth spot, going 3-for-5 with two runs scored. Junior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) was responsible for driving in three of Kent State's eight runs, including the winning run in the eighth.
"Joe's had some good at-bats," said Stricklin. " He's an ideal leadoff guy because he makes a lot of contact and makes pitchers work. He's a spark for our team. Derek is in the nine hole because he can be that second leadoff guy, which puts pressure on teams."
The Cougars (11-10) eliminated Kent State's 5-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth after scoring two runs, but Kent State was undeterred by the Houston comeback effort.
Freshman designated hitter T.J. Sutton (Uniontown, Ohio) got the top of the eighth started with a single to right center. Koch earned his third hit of the day one out later with a base hit to left. With freshman pinch runner Troy Summers (Minerva, Ohio) and Koch each advancing a base on a throwing error, the stage was set for a clutch two-out double to left by Rider to give Kent State a 7-5 lead.
"Jimmy's just a solid player who gets the job done," said Stricklin. "I had a good feeling he was going to get a hit there. He's a great player, and great players come up big in big situations."
Junior right-handed pitcher Kyle McMillen (North Canton, Ohio) entered the game in the bottom of the frame and sat the Cougars down in order. Junior third baseman Travis Shaw (Washington Court House, Ohio) led off the top of the ninth with a single and put Kent State ahead by three runs later in the frame when he scored courtesy of a fielder's choice that put Koch on.
After McMillen induced a double play in the last of the ninth, the Cougars filled the bases. McMillen was able to work out of the jam, however, and earn his third save of the season. Sophomore righty Casey Wilson (Sagamore Hills, Ohio) was credited with the pitching win for the Flashes, working two frames with a strikeout while allowing two earned runs on three hits with two walks.
"He (McMillen) had two outs and nobody on and we committed an error behind him and allowed an extra out," said Stricklin. "It wasn't a great situation to be in, but he overcame that adversity and got the job done."
Koch helped the Flashes open the contest with a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, smacking a single to short to lead off the game. Sophomore center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio) followed by coaxing a walk. Koch scampered home on an error that put Rider on base. Campbell then scored on a groundout to first by senior right fielder Ben Klafczynski (Granger Township, Ohio), followed by Rider giving the Flashes a three-run lead courtesy of a foul out to short by junior catcher David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.).
The Cougars (11-10) cut Kent State's edge to two runs in the bottom of the second, but the Golden Flashes got the run back in the top half of the fourth when Toadvine reached on a fielder's choice and scored on a two-out double to left by Koch.
Houston did not quit, though, plating two scores in the bottom of the fifth to shave Kent State's advantage to 4-3. The Flashes made it a two-run affair again in the top half of the sixth. Toadvine cracked a one-out base hit up the middle and scored one out later when Campbell did the same.
The Flashes play two midweek games this week, taking on Louisville Tuesday (March 22) and Xavier Wednesday (March 23) before squaring off against Toledo (March 25-27) in the Mid-American Conference and home opening series for the team at Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium.