Senior shortstop stands alone in school annals with 314 base knocks, drives in three runs on two hits to help Golden Flashes win fifth MAC series in six tries in 2012.
KENT, Ohio – Senior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) cracked a two-out, two-RBI double to left field in the bottom of the eighth inning to help the Kent State baseball team blank Mid-American Conference West Division foe Western Michigan, 4-0, and establish himself as the school's new all-time hits king Saturday (April 28) at Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium.
"It's a great feeling and honor to break the record, but it's even better to get the win," said Rider.
The victory gave the Golden Flashes (26-17, 14-3 MAC) their fifth MAC series win in six tries in 2012 and marked Kent State's 18th win in its last 25 games. The Flashes rumbled to a 16-5 win over the Broncos (17-22, 7-9 MAC) Friday (April 27) in the series opener of the three-game weekend set. The weekend series win allowed Kent State to maintain its hold on first place in the race for the conference's regular season championship and number one seed in the 2012 MAC Tournament, which will be held May 23-26 all All-Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, Ohio.
"We were efficient offensively today," said eighth-year head coach Scott Stricklin. "When we had a chance to get guys over, we got them over. When we had the chance to get them in, we got them in. Our hitters executed and got the job done and got us the win."
The Broncos outhit the Golden Flashes, 7-4, in a contest dominated by pitching, but Rider's two hits broke the previous school standard of 113 held by Andrew Davis (2004-07) and broke the backs of Western Michigan as his base knocks drove in three of Kent State's four runs. His RBI double in the eighth extended his team lead to 21 on the season. Rider is one of five players in Kent State history to collect 300-plus hits, joining Davis, Ben Klafczynski (312; 2008-11), Jess Bechard (304; 1997-00) and Anthony Gallas (302; 2007-10). Rider, who is as consistent of a middle infielder as the Kent State baseball program has ever seen, also owns Kent State's career assists record with 677.
"Jimmy has been here for four years, and it goes by really fast," said Stricklin. "I don't know if I would have predicted he'd be our all-time hits leader when I sat in his living room five years ago, but we knew he'd be a great player. He passed one of the greatest players to ever play here in Andrew Davis. We're proud of him and what he's been able to accomplish. Our whole senior class has a lot of talent and a lot of wins."
Kent State's pitching was just a bit better in a game that was a classic pitcher's duel.
After rain delayed the start of the contest by three hours, Kent State junior right-handed starting pitcher Ryan Bores (Strongsville, Ohio) retired the side in the first two frames. He surrendered a two-out single to left to Western Michigan sophomore center fielder Vinnie Booker in the top of the third. Booker then stole second, and Bores hit freshman catcher Jared Kujawa with a pitch to put two men on for redshirt senior designated hitter Zach Thoma. Bores buckled down, though, striking out Thoma to extinguish the threat and keep the game scoreless.
Western Michigan sophomore left-handed starting pitcher Steve Laudicina was perfect through the first three innings, but Kent State's bats broke through in the home half of the fourth. Junior center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio) hit a leadoff single to left, then scampered to second when Laudicina's pickoff attempt to first base missed its mark. Rider moved Campbell up to third with a ground out to second. Senior catcher and 2012 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award Finalist David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.) worked the count full and won the battle as Laudicina's payoff pitch went wild and allowed Campbell to score.
The Broncos put runners on second and third in the top of the fifth thanks to singles by sophomore second baseman Dan Shutes and Booker and sacrifice bunts by sophomore left fielder Theo Piccirilli and Kujawa, but Bores put out the fire again when he got Thoma to fly out to center.
The Flashes made it a two-run game in the sixth when sophomore second baseman Derek Toadvine (Springfield, Ohio) coxed a one-out walk and Rider drove him home out later on a base hit to right.
Bores gave way to senior right hander Ryan Mace (Tallmadge, Ohio) in the seventh. Western Michigan opened the frame with back-to-back singles by freshman shortstop Andrew Sohn and Shutes. Piccirilli moved them both up 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt. Booker lifted a fly to center, but Campbell fired the relay throw back to Mace to keep Sohn at bay at third base. The Flashes dipped into their bullpen again to call on the services of freshman left-handed reliever Brian Clark (Munroe Falls, Ohio), who responded to the challenge by striking out Kujawa to send the contest to the seventh-inning stretch and keep the Broncos off the scoreboard again.
After Clark retired Western Michigan in order in the top of the eighth, the Flashes added their final two insurance runs in the home half. Freshman third baseman Sawyer Polen (Wooster, Ohio) reached on a fielding error by Western Michigan senior third baseman Ryan McMillin. Toadvine moved Polen to second on a base hit to center, setting the table for Rider's two-RBI shot to left that nearly cleared the wall.
Clark shrugged off a one-out base hit to center by Sohn and a walk by Shutes in the top of the ninth to earn his third save of the 2012 season.
Bores earned the pitching victory to improve to 5-2 on the season, striking out four over six innings while scattering four hits. Clark tallied three strikeouts in 2.1 innings of relief work.
"For Ryan to go out and throw six scoreless and not walk anybody was big for us," said Stricklin. "Our bullpen was able to relieve him and get the job done. Ryan shook off a slow start and got a couple outs, and Brian did an unbelievable job to get the save."
Laudicina was hit with the pitching defeat for Western Michigan, falling to 4-4 on the season after giving up four runs – one earned – on four hits and three walks. He fanned two over 7.2 innings.
Kent State shoots for its third MAC series sweep of the 2012 season when it faces Western Michigan Sunday (April 29). Sophomore righty Tyler Skulina (Strongsville, Ohio) will start the game on the mound for Kent State. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.