Kent State Baseball Comes Up With More Late-Inning Magic To Win Series Over Buffalo
Roberts provides winning margin with three-run homer in eighth as Golden Flashes rally from 3-0 deficit for second-straight come-from-behind win over Bulls.
KENT, Ohio – Another day, another game, another late-inning heart stopper for the Kent State baseball team.
Kent State recovered from a 3-0 deficit after six innings to tally three runs in the seventh and three more in the eighth before sweating out a top of the ninth that featured a bases-loaded, no-out nail-biting finish to complete a 6-3 come-from-behind victory over Mid-American Conference East Division foe Buffalo Saturday (April 7) at Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium.
The Golden Flashes (17-13, 8-0 MAC) have won nine of their last 12 games and won their third straight MAC series courtesy of the victory over the Bulls (7-18, 1-6 MAC). Kent State pulled out a 5-4 walk-off thriller Friday (April 6) in the three-game weekend series opener against the Bulls. Eight of Kent State's last 10 games have been decided by three runs or less, with the Golden Flashes coming out victorious in five of those contests. The Flashes maintained their grip on first place in the race for the MAC East title.
"Maybe that's just the kind of team we're going to be," said eighth-year head coach Scott Stricklin. "Maybe we're just going to find ways to win, and that's fine with me, as long as we're winning. You'd like to get a little more comfortable with some more runs and hits early on in games but to start out 8-0 is huge."
Kent State right-handed junior starting pitcher Ryan Bores (Strongsville, Ohio) and Buffalo redshirt senior righty Jeff Thompson were locked in a scoreless duel through five innings, with Bores striking out eight of the first 23 batters he faced. Unfortunately for the Golden Flashes, things began unravel for Bores and his defense in the top of the sixth.
Junior second baseman Jon Mestas got things started for Buffalo with a leadoff single that rocketed off his bat and back to the mound and ricocheted off of Bores' leg. After being examined by Kent State's trainers and coaches, Bores remained on the hill and struck out junior catcher Tom Murphy for the first out of the inning, but senior right fielder Dan Scahill broke the scoreless deadlock by sending a double into left center to score Mestas. After Scahill moved up to second on a wild pitch, sophomore designated hitter Thomas Richards made it 2-0 with an RBI double to left. Bores got sophomore shortstop Michael Burke to lift a fly ball into center, but Kent State junior center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio) could not get a handle on it, allowing Richards to race home and give the Bulls a three-run advantage. Kent State called upon redshirt freshman righty Eric Dorsch (Gibsonia, Pa.) to get the final two outs of the frame, but the damage was done.
The Flashes could not capitalize on a two-out walk by senior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) in the home half, but Dorsch kept it a three-run affair by retiring in the side in the top of the seventh.
Kent State tapped into its late inning magic in the bottom of the frame. Junior first baseman George Roberts (Summerhill, Pa.) sparked the rally with a leadoff double to right center. Sophomore right fielder T.J. Sutton (Uniontown, Ohio) followed with a single through the right side but was knocked off the bases on a fielder's choice that put junior designated hitter Jason Bagoly (Austintown, Ohio) on. Roberts tagged up and scored Kent State's first run when freshman third baseman Sawyer Polen (Wooster, Ohio) lifted a sacrifice fly to right. Stricklin called upon redshirt freshman pinch hitter Blake Bellman (Wooster, Ohio) to keep the inning alive, and Bellman delivered a single into center to put two on with no outs. After Bellman was replaced on the basepaths by freshman pinch runner Alex Miklos (Grove City, Pa.), Stricklin again opted to send a pinch hitter to the plate, inserting redshirt junior Nick Hamilton (Avon Lake, Ohio). Hamilton did not disappoint, ripping a triple to left center to score Bagoly and Miklos and tie the contest up at three-all.
Dorsch retired the side again in the top of the eighth to set the table for another dramatic victory for the Golden Flashes. Rider reached first on a fielding error by Mestas to get the home half started, and senior catcher David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.) followed by cracking a single through the right side. That set the stage for Roberts to crush a 2-0 pitch by Buffalo senior right-handed reliever Kevin Crumb over the wall in left-center for a three-run homer and a 6-3 Kent State lead.
"George has been very good, and I'm also very proud of the way he's come along defensively," said Stricklin. "His overall game has come around. He's hitting for some power. He's a gap-to-gap type hitter, and lately, he's really swung the bat well."
Stricklin asked senior righty Ryan Mace (Tallmadge, Ohio) to close out the win in the top of the ninth. It was rough going for Mace at first as he issued a walk to Burke, beaned sophomore third baseman Michael Scarcello with a pitch and handed out a free pass to redshirt sophomore first baseman Ryan Tulloch to load the bases with no outs. Mace dug deep, though, striking out junior center fielder Jason Kanzler and junior left fielder Matt Pollock and getting Mestas to fly out to right to cement the victory for the Flashes and earn his second save of the season.
"Ryan's a senior and we trust him," said Stricklin of Mace working out of the jam in the ninth. "We know he's going to get the job done. He's a strike thrower who rarely walks people, but he buckled down."
Dorsch earned the pitching victory to even his record at 1-1, striking out two in in 2.2 perfect frames of work.
"Eric is a guy who is really tough to hit because he's so tall and his release point is so far out front," said Stricklin. "He's throwing the ball close to 90 miles-per-hour, and it's really tough to hit. We've been encouraging him to be aggressive on the mound and throw strikes."
Roberts led the Flashes with two hits – including the game-winning round trippper – to match Campbell with a team-high 15 multi-hit games this season.
The Golden Flashes shoot for their third MAC series sweep in as many tries in 2012 as they battle Buffalo on Techno Sunday (April 8). First pitch is set for 1 p.m.