Loss To Eastern Michigan Forces MAC Championship Play-In Game For No. 25 Kent State Baseball
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio -- The Kent State baseball team stranded 12 base runners and lost to Eastern Michigan, 4-2, today (March 27) in the double-elimination 2011 Mid-American Conference Tournament at VA Memorial Stadium.
Ranked No. 25 in the nation according to the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, the No. 1-seeded Golden Flashes (41-15) will be forced to play an elimination game against the No. 5-seeeded Eagles (37-21) Saturday (March 28) at noon with a trip to the conference title game at stake, marking the second straight season such a scenario has played out. The winner will square off with No. 3-seeded Miami 45 minutes after the conclusion of the contest in a battle for the conference tournament crown and an automatic bid to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The RedHawks defeated No. 2-seeded Central Michigan, 5-2, Friday evening to advance to the MAC final.
First pitch of both the elimination game and championship game is pending the outcome of tonight's game between No. 2-seeded Central Michigan and No. 3-seeded Miami.
Kent State's loss to the Eagles marks just the sixth defeat in the squad's last 38 games and snapped both a seven-game MAC Tournament winning streak and a six-game winning streak over Eastern Michigan. Tomorrow's contest will serve as a conference tournament rubber match between Kent State and Eastern Michigan, marking the third straight 2011 MAC Tournament game between the two programs. The Flashes defeated Eastern Michigan, 5-4, Thursday (May 27), forcing the Eagles to survive a wild 10-inning elimination game against No. 4-seeded Northern Illinois, 12-11, Friday morning just to have the right to play Kent State Friday afternoon. Kent State swept the regular season series (April 8-10) over Eastern Michigan at Olga. A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium. In 2010, EMU defeated Kent State, 12-4, in the MAC Tournament opener, forcing the Flashes to win five games in four days -- including two over the Eagles, the latter of which propelled Kent State into the title game -- en route to a second straight tournament championship.
Redshirt junior left fielder Joe Koch (Youngstown, Ohio) and freshman designated hitter T.J. Sutton (Uniontown, Ohio) combined to collect six of Kent State's eight hits with three apiece, but the Flashes failed to take advantage of having runners in scoring position in each of the last five innings.
Junior right-handed starting pitcher Ryan Mace (Tallmadge, Ohio) suffered the pitching defeat for the Flashes, falling to 5-2 on the year. He scattered eight hits and allowed four runs – three of them earned – while fanning six over seven innings.
The contest between the Flashes and Eagles had a similar feel to the one the day before, with Eastern Michigan striking early with two runs in the bottom of the first. Junior center fielder Brent Ohrman smacked a one-out base hit through the left side, then stole second. Senior second baseman Zack Leonard drove Ohrman home with a single up the middle, then scored on a double to right center by junior third baseman Ben Magsig.
Mace settled into a groove after allowing the first two runs, sitting down 10 consecutive batters. Eastern Michigan captured some two-out lightning, though, in the fourth inning. Sophomore designated hitter Sam Ott coaxed a four-pitch walk to set the table for an RBI triple to right center by sophomore left fielder Daniel Russell to increase the Eagles' lead to 3-0.
Kent State began chipping away at Eastern Michigan's lead in the fifth. Sutton put a leadoff single into left and later scored when sophomore center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio) served up a sacrifice fly to left field, but the Flashes ended the frame with runners stranded on first and second.
The Eagles got a run back in the bottom of the inning when senior right fielder Ken Battiston cracked a one-out double down the left field line, moved up to third on an error that put Ohrman on and then scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Leonard.
Kent State cut its deficit to two runs in the seventh when Koch hit a leadoff single to right, moved up to both second and third on passed balls and then scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Campbell.
Unfortunately for Kent State, that's as close to victory as it got, failing to take advantage of runners in scoring position in the eighth and stranding runners at second and third in the ninth.
Battiston and Magsig led the way for the Eagles at the plate with two hits apiece. Sophomore right-handed starting pitcher Steve Weber gave up two runs – one of which was earned – on seven hits and six walks. He struck out three over seven frames and improved to 6-3 on the season. Junior southpaw reliever Collin Taylor tossed scoreless eighth and ninth innings to pick up his first save of 2011, allowing one hit and a walk.
Stayed tuned to KentStateSports.com to find out when the Flashes and Eagles will square off tomorrow.