Kent State Baseball Produces Offensive Onslaught To Slug Past Xavier
CINCINNATI -- A major weather front formed in southwest Ohio Wednesday (March 23) and terrorized the northeast. It's source? The Kent State baseball team's offense. It's first victim? The Xavier Musketeers.
Kent State (10-9, 0-0) smashed and bashed its way to a 22-2 victory over host Xavier (14-8, 0-0) at Hayden Field, collecting 20 hits en route to the romp. Kent State totaled at least 20 hits and 20 runs for the first time since a 20-7 thumping of Akron on May 22, 2010.
"We came out ready to play and swung the bats really well, got strong pitching performances and made a lot of good defensive plays behind that pitching," said seventh-year head coach Scott Stricklin.
Senior right fielder Ben Klafczynski (Granger Township, Ohio) manhandled the Xavier pitching, going a career-best 5-for-5 with two home runs, six RBIs and four runs scored. He became the first Kent State hitter to post five hits in one game since Jared Humphreys did so against Eastern Michigan in the Mid-American Conference Tournament on May 28, 2010, became the first Kent State hitter to crush two home runs in one game since Anthony Gallas did so at Akron on May 21, 2010 and became the first Kent State player to score four runs in a game since current junior third baseman Travis Shaw (Washington Court House, Ohio) did so at Akron on May 22, 2010. Klafczynski is now batting .446 on the season and has hit safely in 16 of Kent State's 19 games this year.
"He was really comfortable in the batter's box today," said Stricklin of Klafczynski's performance. "Every swing he took was a good one. It was one of those days where he saw the ball really well and hit the ball to all fields."
Klafczynski wasn't the only one in on the hit parade. Shaw went 3-for-5 with five RBIs and four runs scored -- including the third grand slam of his career -- while redshirt sophomore pinch hitter Phil Smith (Kent, Ohio) smashed the first grand slam of his career. The grand slams marked Kent State's first since Klafczynski hit one against Eastern Michigan in the Mid-American Conference Tournament on May 28, 2010. Sophomore shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) tallied three singles with two RBIs and three runs scored, and sophomore catcher Jason Bagoly (Austintown, Ohio) added three hits with two RBIs and two runs scored.
"You've got to spread it around," said Stricklin. "Up and down the lineup, we had very few poor at bats today. They put themselves in good hitting counts and took advantage of that with good swings."
While Kent State's offense was explosive, its pitching was equally dominant. Junior right-handed starting pitcher Ryan Mace (Tallmadge, Ohio) scattered six hits over five innings of work, allowing one earned run and walking two while totaling four strikeouts to improve to 2-1 on the season. Freshman righty Dan Slavik (St. Clairsville, Ohio), senior righty Justin Gill (Canton, Ohio) and junior righty Kyle McMillen (North Canton, Ohio) combined to finish off the Musketeers in relief of Mace, joining forces to throw the last four innings and limiting Xavier to one earned run on one hit and two walks while striking out six.
"Ryan threw a lot of stirkes and made them put the ball in play," said Stricklin. "Slavik, Gill and McMillen all came in and put in solid work for us. It was good to get all those guys in to get ready for conference play."
The Flashes struck early and often, opening the scoring with a five-run top of the second inning. Bagoly got it started with a one-out double to right. Freshman first baseman Cody Koch (Sandusky, Ohio) and freshman second baseman Derek Toadvine (Springfield, Ohio) followed by each drawing walks. Bagoly scored when junior center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio) reached by way of an error. That set the table up for Shaw' s bases clearing bomb to left.
Kent State made it 8-0 in the third. Freshman left fielder T.J. Sutton (Uniontown, Ohio) reached base safely courtesy of an error, and Bagoly drove him home with a two-run blast to left. Koch followed by coaxing a walk and later scored on a single to left by Rider.
Xavier shaved Kent State's lead to seven with a score in the fourth, but the Golden Flashes answered right back with four more runs in the fifth. Campbell reached on a fielder's choice and advanced to second on a wild pitch with two outs. Rider brought him home with a base hit. Shaw followed by drawing a walk, then Klafczynski plated Rider with a base hit to right. Junior designated hitter David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.) singled home Shaw, and Sutton did the same for Klafczynski to make it 12-1 in favor of the Flashes.
Klafczynski launched his first home run of the contest to lead off the seventh frame before the Golden Flashes exploded for six more runs in the eighth. Redshirt sophomore pinch hitter Nick Hamilton (Avon Lake, Ohio) drew a one-out walk while redshirt freshman pinch hitter Troy Summers (Minerva, Ohio) followed with a base hit. Rider juiced the bags by drawing a walk, allowing Shaw to plate Hamilton with a single to left. Summers was bumped home when Klafczynski reached on a walk. Smith then proceeded to launch a grand slam to right to up Kent State's edge to 17 runs.
The Musketeers plated one run in the eighth, but the Flashes finished them off with three more runs in the ninth. Rider reached on a fielder's choice and Shaw singled, allowing Klafczynski to fittingly finish the scoring spree off with a three-run round tripper to right.
Kent State squares 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.