Kent State Baseball Matches School's Single-Season Conference Wins Record By Closing Regular Season With Sweep Of Akron
Top-seeded Golden Flashes will face off with No. 8-seeded Buffalo next Wednesday (May 23) in the opening game of the 2012 MAC Tournament.
KENT, Ohio – The Kent State baseball team edged Akron, 2-1, to run its win streak to 13 games, close the 2012 regular season with its fourth straight Mid-American Conference series sweep and seventh of the season and tie the program's record for most conference wins in a single season on Senior Day Saturday (May 19) at Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium.
The 2012 MAC champion Golden Flashes (37-17, 24-3) matched Kent State's 1992 championship team for the most MAC victories in a single season. Kent State will be the No. 1 seed in MAC Tournament and will face No. 8 seed Buffalo (18-34, 10-16 MAC) next Wednesday (May 23) at 7:30 p.m. at All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, Ohio. The Flashes enter the postseason having won 28 of their last 35 games – including 17 of their last 19. Kent State pulled out a 5-4 walk-off thriller over the Bulls on April 6 at Schoonover Stadium and followed it up with a 6-3 come-from-behind win the next day and another 6-3 win in the Sunday series finale.
Saturday's game was a classic pitcher's duel in which Kent State produced just enough offense in the bottom of the fourth inning after Akron took a 1-0 lead in the top half by way of a leadoff home run over the left field wall by sophomore second baseman Tyler Begun. Kent State answered back in the home half, though, as junior center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio) hit a leadoff single down the left field line to break up Akron senior right-handed Alex Loftin's perfect game bid. Senior catcher David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.) – arguably the most clutch hitter in Kent State – sent a triple into deep left center to tie the game. Junior first baseman George Roberts (Summerhill, Pa.) broke the tie by serving up a sacrifice fly to center to allow Lyon to tag up and score.
"David came up big for us," said eighth-year head coach Scott Stricklin. "He hit a triple into the gap to get that big RBI and got us going. George followed with a great at-bat to help give us the win."
Akron threatened in the top of the eighth when senior catcher Ivory Alexander was hit by a pitch with one out and then stole second, but Kent State senior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) made yet another of his patented spectacular defensive plays by keeping freshman shortstop Matt Rembielak's hit back up the middle on the infield to prevent Alexander from scoring the tying run.
"It's fitting that Jimmy Rider made the play that saved the game for us," said Stricklin. "Great players find a way, and that's what Jimmy did. It was a back-breaking play for Akron. It's been fun to watch Jimmy do that for four years."
Loftin retired 14 of Kent State's final 15 batters, but the 2-1 lead was enough for the Flashes as Kent State sophomore right-handed starting pitcher Tyler Skulina (Strongsville, Ohio), freshman southpaw reliever Brian Clark (Munroe Falls, Ohio), redshirt freshman righty Josh Pierce (Avon, Ohio) and junior right-handed closer Casey Wilson (Sagamore Hills, Ohio) combined to keep the Zips off of the scoreboard the rest of the way.
Skulina worked six innings and struck out five to earn his team-leading ninth pitching victory of the season and improve to 9-2 on the season. Wilson pitched a perfect ninth inning to nail down his sixth save of the season.
Loftin was saddled with the loss for Akron, falling to 3-4 on the season despite limiting Kent State to only two hits. He struck out four.
Stay tuned to KentStateSports.com and follow Kent State baseball on Twitter @FlashesBaseball for more updates on the 2012 MAC Tournament run.
NOTE: The Kent State baseball program honored its five-member senior class prior to Saturday's game, celebrating the achievements of Lyon, Rider, outfielder Joe Koch (Austintown, Ohio), right-handed pitcher Ryan Mace (Tallmadge, Ohio) and southpaw ace David Starn (Hudson, Ohio). Along with 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft picks Andrew Chafin, Kyle McMillen and Travis Shaw - all of whom would have been a part of the class of 2012 - Kent State's five current seniors have helped account for 164 wins, two straight MAC regular season crowns, three straight conference tournament titles and three straight NCAA Championship Regional berths.