The Kent State baseball team has an opportunity to climb back to .500 in Mid-American Conference play when it visits Northern Illinois this weekend.
Coming off its strongest win in weeks at Pittsburgh yesterday, a 7-0 victory, the Flashes roll in to DeKalb, Ill. on a two-game winning streak.
At the University of Pittsburgh, Kent State had consistent pitching from its starter, junior Alan Morrison, and also from the bullpen. Junior Steve Ross and freshman Justin Gill added two innings of relief each to finish off the game. The three combined to allow only four total hits.
“We pitched very well and we played great defense,” coach Scott Stricklin said. “It was big for Alan Morrison to go out there and have the outing that he did. It was our best pitching performance – going along with Louisville when we shut them out – the entire year.”
Offensively, junior first baseman Greg Rohan led the way once again. Coming off a 3-3, 1 HR and 3 RBI performance Tuesday against Niagara, Rohan stayed hot going 2-4 from the plate with 1 RBI and 1 run scored.
Senior second baseman Doug Sanders also produced, going 1-2 with a home run and 1 RBI. Sanders also crossed the plate three times Wednesday.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday are huge for the Flashes if they want to jump back in to the race for first in the MAC. Stricklin noted that weekend series are must-wins from now on.
“If we’re going to challenge for this conference title, we need to win weekends,” Stricklin said. “It’s always difficult to go on the road and win a series.
“We have to do everything we can to win the first game and, to use the oldest cliché in the book, take it one game at a time,” Stricklin added.
Northern Illinois has a 9-14 overall record this year, 3-3 in the MAC. The Huskies are coming off a stretch in which they have lost three of their last four games.
In the MAC, Northern Illinois has been a part of two sweeps. In their first series, the Huskies swept Buffalo, outscoring them by a total of 33-8. The second series of the season was much more closely fought, but Northern Illinois lost all three games at Bowling Green.
Kent State has played one MAC series thus far, losing all three games to Ball State in late March. An opening series at Eastern Michigan was canceled due to snow.
Kent State trails Bowling Green in the standings, and sits last overall in the MAC East Division. Wins this weekend would help tremendously in the Flashes’ hopes to repeat as MAC Champions.
The MAC Tournament is May 21-25, and is being played at a neutral site, Chillicothe, Ohio, for the first time ever. It is on a one-year trial period to decide if the conference wishes to do the same in the future.
“I think overall it’s good for the conference, two more teams are in the conference tournament,” Stricklin said about a neutral site for the MAC Tournament. “Playing at a neutral site – if the town of Chillicothe can support it and bring some fans out – I think it can be good for our conference.”