Mistakes Doom Kent State Baseball In Extra-Innings Loss At Bowling Green
Golden Flashes drop first conference game of 2012 with series-opening loss to Falcons in 14 innings, fall to 9-1 in MAC play on the season.
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Unfortunately for the Kent State baseball team, Friday the 13th was truly unlucky.
Kent State squandered a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth and a 5-4 edge in the ninth and went on to lose to Mid-American Conference East Division rival Bowling Green, 6-5, in 14 innings Friday (April 13) in the three-game series opener at Steller Field as three errors and two unearned runs proved costly.
The loss halted Kent State's winning streak at five games and marked the first MAC loss of the season for the Golden Flashes (19-14, 9-1 MAC). The extra-innings loss to the Falcons (13-20, 3-7 MAC) marked Kent State's longest extra-innings affair since a 6-4 loss in 15 innings to Richmond on Feb. 29, 2004, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. 10 of Kent State's last 12 games have been decided by three runs or less, with the Flashes coming away victorious in five of those contests.
"It was a matter of time before our luck run out," said eighth-year head coach Scott Stricklin. "We had the game in control today and let it get away from us late. We made some mistakes to allow that to happen. The only thing we can do is learn from it and come back tomorrow, ready to go. Our goal every weekend is to win the weekend, and we still have a chance to do that. We all would have loved to have gone 27-0 in conference play, but we knew that wasn't realistic. Hopefully, this is a wake-up call for us and gets us back on track to where we need to be; playing good, solid baseball for nine innings, or however long the games go."
The defeat spoiled another strong outing by senior southpaw ace David Starn (Hudson, Ohio), who struck out nine over seven innings while giving up one unearned run on three hits in his ninth start of the season and departed the contest with the Flashes leading, 4-1.
"I don't know what we have to do to get the guy a win," said Stricklin of Starn. "He deserves to get the wins. It's frustrating for David to not get that win, but we win and lose as a team."
Kent State landed the first punch in the top of the fourth when junior first baseman George Roberts (Summerhill, Pa.) smashed a leadoff home run to center field. Freshman left fielder Alex Miklos (Grove City, Pa.) smacked a two-out single back up the middle, stole second and scored Kent State's second run on an RBI double to left center by redshirt sophomore right fielder Troy Summers (Minerva, Ohio).
Bowling Green answered with a run in the bottom of the fifth as freshman second baseman Brian Bien hit a one-out single to right, went to second on a walk by redshirt freshman shortstop Brandon Howard and then scored on a single and an error by Kent State sophomore second baseman Derek Toadvine (Springfield, Ohio) that put sophomore center fielder Jake Thomas on.
The Golden Flashes upped their lead to three runs on another leadoff round tripper by Roberts in the sixth and a solo shot by Miklos two outs later, the first of his career.
It appeared as though Kent State would tap into its bullpen and seal up its 10th conference win in a row, but Bowling Green had other ideas in the bottom of the eighth. Howard led off with a single through the right side and moved to second on an error by Summers. Thomas tripled Howard home to cut Kent State's lead to 4-2, and sophomore third baseman Logan Walker made it a one-run contest by driving home Thomas with a triple of his own. Redshirt sophomore first baseman Andrew Kuns was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners for the Falcons. Redshirt freshman righty Eric Dorsch (Gibsonia, Pa.) entered the game to replace junior right-handed reliever Casey Wilson (Sagamore Hills, Ohio) on the hill for Kent State. Bowling Green called upon junior Matthew Pitzulo to pinch hit, and he picked up an RBI to tie the game on a fielder's choice that allowed Walker to score.
Kent State's offense did not waver in the top of the ninth, though. Sophomore T.J. Sutton (Uniontown, Ohio) entered the game to pinch hit for Summers and coaxed a leadoff walk. Fifth-year senior Joe Koch (Austintown, Ohio) came in to pinch run for Sutton and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Toadvine and to third on a fly out to center junior center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio). Senior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) broke the tie with a single through the left side to plate Koch and give the Flashes a 5-4 edge.
Kent State called upon senior righty Ryan Mace (Tallmadge, Ohio) to close out the contest in the home half, but Bowling Green refused to go away. Sophomore catcher T.J. Losby sent a leadoff base hit through the right side, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore right fielder Alex Davison and to third on a ground out by Bien. Losby forced extra innings when he scored on a single up the middle by sophomore pinch hitter Patrick Lancaster.
Neither team could get anything going offensively in extra innings until the Falcons landed the knockout punch to the Flashes in the bottom of the 14th. Bien led off by legging out a bunt single and went to second on an error by freshman third baseman Sawyer Polen (Wooster, Ohio). Bien advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by redshirt senior left-handed relief pitcher Patrick Martin. Kent State opted to load the bases by intentionally walking Thomas and Walker to set up a potential inning-ending double play, but Kuns was hit by a pitch to bump home Bien and end the game.
"The error that ended up beating us was a tough play for Sawyer," said Stricklin. "We didn't back up the play at first base. Guys weren't where they were supposed to be. It was disappointing that we had a mental breakdown at a crucial point in the game, and it came back to haunt us."
Mace was tagged with the pitching defeat for Kent State, falling to 1-3 on the season.
Roberts led the way at the plate with three hits – including two homers to increase his season total to a team-high five round trippers. Miklos and Campbell each posted two hits.
Thomas, Losby and Bien paced Bowling Green's offense with two hits apiece.
Martin earned the win in relief for the Falcons, tossing two scoreless frames to up his season record to 1-2. Junior right-handed reliever Nick Bruns pitched four scoreless relief innings for Bowling Green.
Kent State looks to even the series with Bowling Green Saturday (April 14) at Steller Field. Junior right-handed reliever Ryan Bores (Strongsville, Ohio) makes his ninth start on the mound of the season and tries to improve to 5-2.