Kent State Baseball Drops Weekend Series To Western Kentucky With Finale Loss
Golden Flashes (4-3) look to get back on track next weekend with four-game series at New Mexico State.
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – The Kent State baseball team came out on the wrong end of a pitchers' duel, falling to host Western Kentucky, 2-1, Sunday (March 4) in non-conference action at Nick Denes Field.
The Golden Flashes (5-4) dropped their first weekend series of the 2012 season as the Hilltoppers (4-7) won the weekend set with two victories in three games. Kent State split a Saturday (March 3) doubleheader with Western Kentucky, falling in the first game, 5-2, but bouncing back with a 13-3 victory in the second.
"It's disappointing when you pitch like we did this weekend and only come away with one win," said eighth-year head coach Scott Stricklin.
Kent State was unable to take advantage of a strong start by sophomore right-handed starting pitcher Tyler Skulina (Strongsville, Ohio), who tossed a two-hit shutout over six frames and recorded a career-high nine strikeouts but departed the game with a no decision and the contest locked in a scoreless tie.
"Tyler was effectively wild," said Stricklin. "They (Western Kentucky) definitely weren't comfortable in the box. He made a lot of good pitches. It excites us that he can be that good when he's not at his best. He competes very hard, and he's going to continue to be good for us all year long."
Neither squad was able to take advantage of runners in scoring position through the first six innings, but Western Kentucky broke through with a two-run bottom of the seventh. Sophomore center field David Simmons led off the frame with a base hit through the right side. Junior shortstop Steve Hodgins laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Simmons over to second. Senior second baseman Ivan Hartle followed by coaxing a walk. The table was set for sophomore first baseman Scott Wilcox to crack a double down the left field line to drive home Simmons and break the scoreless deadlock. Hartle scored one out later when senior right fielder Ryan Hutchison reached on a fielding error by Kent State senior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.).
Kent State retaliated with a run in the top of the eighth to cut Western Kentucky's advantage to one. Redshirt sophomore right fielder Troy Summers (Minerva, Ohio) smacked a leadoff double to left field, then stole third and scored on an RBI groundout by fifth-year senior left fielder Joe Koch (Austintown, Ohio).
Senior third baseman Casey Dykes legged out a one-out infield single for Western Kentucky in the home half of the frame, but right-handed junior reliever Casey Wilson (Sagamore Hills, Ohio) forced Simmons to roll one over to Rider, who flipped the ball to second baseman Derek Toadvine (Springfield, Ohio) to turn a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Down to their final three outs, it appeared Kent State was in business when junior first baseman George Roberts (Summerhill, Pa.) ripped a one-out double to right. He was replaced on the basepaths by freshman pinch runner Alex Miklos (Grove City, Pa.). Miklos moved to third on a groundout by redshirt junior third baseman Nick Hamilton (Avon Lake, Ohio), but that's as close as he got to scoring, as sophomore pinch hitter T.J. Sutton (Uniontown, Ohio) flied out to center to end the game.
"You can't just expect to turn it on late," said Stricklin. "We woke up in the eighth inning and started doing some things we needed to do, but it's got to happen from the first inning on. We've got some veteran guys on our team, three senior position players who need to be leaders on this team and make sure our guys are ready to go. I think they'll get there, and this team will get there, but right now, offensively, we're not where we need to be."
Hamilton led the Flashes at the plate with two doubles, upping his series total to four. He led Kent State with a staggering .700 batting average, seven hits and five RBIs on the weekend. Toadvine was the only other Flash to post a multi-hit game on Sunday with two singles.
"Nick got a lot of big hits, especially in game two on Saturday," said Stricklin. "He had a lot of clutch hits. He's been a shot in the arm for us, and guys really rally around him. He's a hard worker."
Redshirt sophomore left-handed pitcher Michael Clark (Akron, Ohio) was saddled with the pitching loss for Kent State. He pitched 1.1 innings of relief, surrendering two runs – only one of which was earned – on two hits and a walk. He fanned one. Wilson recorded the final two outs in the bottom of the eighth, allowing one hit.
Western Kentucky junior southpaw starter Tim Bado struck out eight and limited Kent State to six hits while giving up an earned run in 8.1 frames. Junior righty Taylor Haydel got the final two outs and picked up the save.
Wilcox led the Hilltoppers at the plate with two hits and an RBI.
Kent State goes west to battle New Mexico State in a four-game series next weekend (March 9-11).