Defense Causes Own Demise on Opening Day for Golden Flashes
Wilmington, N.C. - Kent State (0-2) mounted a five-run comeback in their opening game and led through six innings of the second, but let both wins slip away as they committed a combined nine errors. The Flashes began the season with a 10-9 loss against Virginia Tech (1-0) and a 7-6 extra-innings loss to host UNC Wilmington (1-0).
"We played defensively about as poorly as you could play," said ninth year head coach Scott Stricklin. "We didn't make routine plays, we extended innings, we gave them a lot of extra opportunities, both teams, and if we play defense like that we won't win very many games."
However, down 6-1 in the second inning against Virginia Tech, Kent State batted back to tie the game at seven in the eighth inning. In the second game versus UNC Wilmington, the Flashes led most of the way, bolstered by a great starting pitching performance by Taylor Williams, who went 6.1 innings before allowing a hit.
"We had a chance to win both games against really good teams," Stricklin added, "so that's the positive that I left with the players. I'm very confident that we're going to play better than that."
On the offensive end, Kent State had four batters pick up four hits on the day, with all but one starter not recording a hit. They out-hit the teams by a combined 26 to 12.
"I thought offensively we were pretty good for both games," Stricklin said, "so that was encouraging. It was good to see some guys swing the bat pretty well, and I think we competed for the most part at the plate."
However, the hits for the most part came at the wrong times, as the Flashes left 25 men stranded and are hitting just .162 with runners in scoring position through two games.
Kent State 9, Virginia Tech 10
The Hokies jumped on the board early, scoring six runs in the first two innings, including a three-run homerun in the second set-up by a two-out Flashes' error. Kent State was able to answer with one of their own in the first on a RBI single by George Roberts, and again in the second after a two-RBI single by Derek Toadvine.
Kent State starting pitcher Tyler Skulina seemed to settle in after the first two innings, allowing just one other run through his total five innings pitched, as neither team plated a run in the fifth, sixth or seventh.
Down two in the bottom of the eighth, the Golden Flashes capitalized on a Hokie error to tie the game. With runners on first and second, Jeff Revesz reached on a fielding error that allowed both runners to score, tying the game at seven each.
But, Virginia Tech would not go down easy. A walk and a double gave the lead back to the Hokies in the ninth. They added two more runs on to the lead after scoring on a throwing error and a RBI single.
Alex Miklos made things exciting once again with a rocket-shot over the wall in left-center to bring the Flashes within one, but that was all they could muster as they took the 10-9 loss.
Skulina finished the game with seven runs allowed, yet only three earned, while walking four and striking out five. Miklos finished 3-for-5 with three runs and two RBI. Toadvine also went 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI. Sawyer Polen had the Flashes' third multi-hit game, going 2-for-4.
Michael Clark pitched three innings in relief, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out three. Josh Pierce (0-1) picked up the loss, allowing three runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks in one inning.
Kent State 6, UNC Wilmington 7 – 10 Innings
Kent State went up 2-1 in the third inning and increased that to 4-1 after the sixth, looking to take the win behind a brilliant debut pitching performance from Williams.
The junior college transfer went seven innings, allowing just one hit and one earned run while striking out five and walking only two.
"We knew Taylor would be good. He did outstanding," said Stricklin. "He's a great athlete on the mound and he throws strikes and fields his position. He really pitched well. He deserved to win."
The Flashes' defense didn't help the pitching staff, though. Five of the Seahawks' seven runs were unearned, coming off of six errors by the Flashes, most on routine plays.
Kent State entered the bottom half of the ninth inning looking to grab their first win of the season on a 6-4 lead. But, the inning started off with an error and one more followed, allowing UNC Wilmington to plate two and send the game into extra innings.
In the bottom of the tenth, the first Seahawk at the plate smacked a shot to center field to walk off with a 7-6 victory.
In his first career game, Zalewski, a freshman, went 4-for-5 with a double. Tommy Monnot also had a good showing at the plate, finishing 3-for-6 with a double and three runs scored.
Eric Dorsch (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing two runs (one earned), two hits and one walk in one inning of work.
Kent State takes on both Virginia Tech and UNC Wilmington again this weekend. Saturday (Feb. 16) they face Virginia Tech. Game time has been moved up to 11:00 am with the threat of bad weather. Sunday (Feb. 17) the Flashes have a rematch with the Seahawks at 10:00 am.
"Tomorrow, we come out and play like Kent State is supposed to play. Play with a lot of pride and toughness," said Stricklin. "We challenge the players. That's what these early games are about. We're playing great teams.
"Tomorrow we need to be a little bit tougher and we need to play a little better Kent State baseball."