Flashes trade winning streak for losses

The Kent State baseball team saw a number of streaks end over the weekend, losing all three games against Ball State to start the Mid-American Conference schedule.

The five-game win streak was snapped, as well as their undefeated 2-0 record at home. In the process the Flashes started another streak, losing three straight.

“I’m very disappointed in the way we played,” coach Scott Stricklin said. “We didn’t pitch well, we didn’t hit well in situations and didn’t defend well. We didn’t deserve to win any of those games and, quite frankly, we kind of got what we deserved.”

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Friday brought an end to the Flashes five-game winning streak, as Kent State lost 10-2.

Sophomore Brad Stillings pitched six strong innings as the starter, allowing zero runs after surrendering a two-run first inning homer. However, Ball State received an even better effort from its starter.

Senior Tyler Pritchard held Kent State scoreless in his seven innings of work.

Ball State went on to score eight runs combined in the last three innings of the game, compared to only two from the Flashes.

Saturday the score was much closer, but the result remained the same as Kent State lost 6-5.

The Flashes nearly made another exciting comeback at Schoonover Stadium, but came a run short in the ninth inning.

Trailing 6-3, Kent State plated two runs and then had runners on first and second. Stricklin decided to send in junior Ryan Mitchell as a pinch hitter. The move was unsuccessful, as Mitchell struck out on three pitches to end the game.

The major factor leading to the loss was the Flashes inability to plate baserunners. A total of 12 men were stranded on the diamond throughout the game. Kent State out-hit Ball State 14-10.

“I’m not happy (with) where we are as a team,” Stricklin said. “We haven’t done very many things well consistently. Even the games that we were winning, we were still making pretty basic mistakes. Right now, it’s everyone’s personal responsibility to do their own job.”

Sunday was another 6-5 loss for the Flashes, who were unable to hold on to a 5-5 tie in the top of the ninth inning.

Stricklin decided to take out sophomore relief pitcher Jon Pokorny, who had pitched two and a third innings without allowing a single baserunners. Senior Reid Lamport came in to relieve Pokorny with two outs in the ninth, and allowed a solo home run to the first batter he faced. The run would be the winning tally for Ball State.

“It was a right on right matchup,” Stricklin said. “Reid Lamport is our go-to-guy out of the (bullpen). We felt like it was very possible that we could be going extra innings.

“He got behind in the count, left the pitch up and the guy got it up in the breeze,” he added. “It was the matchup we wanted.”

It took Kent State 20 innings to garner a lead against the Cardinals, doing so in the third inning Sunday. The lead lasted until the top of the sixth when Ball State scored four runs to pull ahead 5-3.

Sophomore starter Kyle Smith pitched well until the sixth, when he was replaced by freshman reliever Justin Gill. A hit batter, a single and a balk put runners on second and third. Then senior right fielder Justin Rogers doubled to drive in two for Ball State.

Gill came in with men on first and second, and could not keep them from crossing home plate, allowing both to score before ending the inning.

The Flashes answered with single runs in the seventh and eighth to tie the game at five, but those runs weren’t enough to get the win for Kent State.

The losses are a huge blow to the morale of Kent State, being that they are now in an 0-3 hole to start conference play.

“I don’t think there’s any question, our confidence is shaken as a team,” Stricklin said. “Our guys have to overcome that. When you lose a home series, let alone get swept, it’s tough to take.”

The Flashes will play two non-conference games before another three-game MAC series against Northern Illinois. Tuesday is the end of the homestand, when Niagara visits Schoonover Stadium. Then the Flashes travel to Pittsburgh to play the Panthers Wednesday.

“The season’s not going anywhere, it’s going to keep coming at us,” Stricklin said. “We have to be prepared to do our jobs.”

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