Golden Flashes stop Northern Illinois in MAC opener 12-6
(KENT, OH) - The Kent State baseball team shook off a 5-2 fourth-inning deficit and senior ace southpaw David Starn shrugged off a slow start to record another solid outing and help the squad defeat interdivision foe Northern Illinois, 12-6, Friday (March 23) in the 2012 Mid-American Conference opener and Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium lid lifer.
The Golden Flashes (9-10, 1-0 MAC) ended a four-game losing skid with the victory over the Huskies (5-17, 0-1 MAC) and improved to 5-3 in home openers at Schoonover Stadium. Kent State has won 19 of its last 22 home games.
"It's been a tough two weeks with some tough travel," said eighth-year head coach Scott Stricklin. "We played a little bit groggy for the first four innings. We played sloppy and tired, but I was proud of the way we picked things up. Guys put it in gear and did the things they needed to do to get the win."
Starn gave up five runs - three earned - on six hits but settled down to retire nine of the last 10 batters he faced and total a season-high 11 strikeouts over seven frames, matching his career high. He improved to 4-2 on the season and 22-8 in his career, moving into a four-way tie for fifth place in school history with Brian Schubert (1987-90), Chad Wagler (2003-06) and Kyle Hallock (2008-11) in most career wins. Starn's 11 strikeouts marked the second time this season he's hit double digits and sixth time his career. He has now fanned 42 batters this season and is now just 13 strikeouts away from breaking the school's career record of 274 set by Dirk Hayhurst (2000-03).
Kent State's offense helped Starn out by tallying 12 runs on 12 hits as four Golden Flashes posted multi-hit efforts. Redshirt freshman left fielder Troy Summers led the charge, tallying a double and two singles, scoring two runs and driving in two more in a career day at the plate. Junior center fielder Evan Campbell smacked a leadoff home run in the bottom of the sixth for his first round tripper of the season and fourth of his career to go along with a single, two runs scored and two RBIs. Senior shortstop Jimmy Rider posted a double and a single, two runs scored and two RBIs while junior first baseman George Roberts added two base hits, two RBIs and a run scored. Campbell, Rider and Roberts have all posted nine multi-hit games this season to lead the Golden Flashes at the plate. Kent State was also active on the bases, recording six stolen bases - including two apiece by Summers and Campbell. Summers has now swiped a team-high 14 bases this season.
Northern Illinois landed the first punch in the top of the second when sophomore first baseman Jeff Zimmerman led off the frame with a double to center, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single up the middle by sophomore right fielder Alex Klonowski. Senior third baseman Troy White made it 2-0 for the Huskies when he reached on a fielder's choice, stole second one out later and then scampered home on a wild pitch.
Kent State evened the score with two runs in the third. Sophomore right fielder T.J. Sutton got things rolling with a leadoff double down the right field line. Sophomore second baseman Derek Toadvine then reached on a throwing error by White and advanced 90 feet on a sacrifice bunt by Campbell. Sutton scored by way of a single through the right side by Rider, and Toadvine tied things up when he crossed home plate on a fielder's choice that put Roberts on.
The Huskies retaliated with a three-run fourth inning to take a 5-2 advantage. Klonowski smacked a leadoff double to center and scored on a double to right by White. White scored on a fielding error by Roberts that put freshman designated hitter Micah McCulloch on. McCulloch advanced to second when senior catcher Brett Frantini coaxed a walk, moved to third on a sacrifice by redshirt junior left fielder Jordan Rishavy and crossed the plate on an RBI groundout by junior center fielder Jamison Wells.
Kent State nipped at the Northern Illinois lead by getting a run back in the home half as Summers legged out a leadoff bunt single, stole second and then third and scored by way of a fielder's choice that put Toadvine on.
Trailing by two runs going into the bottom of the fifth, Kent State broke the contest wide open with five runs to take an 8-5 lead. Campbell got things started by coaxing a leadoff walk and then stealing second. Rider was plunked by a pitch to put two on with no outs for senior catcher David Lyon, who ripped a double down the right field line to plate Campbell and move Rider to third. Rider tagged up and scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Roberts to tie game. Northern Illinois opted to lift senior starting left-handed pitcher Tom Barry from the game in favor of redshirt junior righty Zach Badgley, but Badgley hit junior designated hitter Jason Bagoly with a pitch, gave up an RBI double to left by Summers and hit freshman third baseman Sawyer Polen with a pitch. The Huskies tapped into their bullpen again, this time calling upon senior lefty Jake Hermsen, but Bagoly scored on an RBI groundout by Sutton and then Summers raced home on a wild pitch to put the Flashes up by three runs.
Kent State tacked on two more scores in the sixth when Campbell led off the home half with his homer over the wall in right center. Rider followed with a double to left, stole second one out later and then scored on a wild pitch to up Kent State's advantage to five runs.
The Golden Flashes added two more runs to their total. Polen drew a one-out walk in the seventh, moved to second on a walk by Sutton, advanced to third on a fielder's choice that put Toadvine on and then scored on a single to left by Campbell. Kent State tallied its 12th and final run in the eighth when Roberts cracked a one-out single, moved to third on a double down the left field line by freshman pinch hitter Tommy Monnot and then scored when Summers lifted a sacrifice fly to center.
The Huskies loaded up the bases in the eighth and got a run back, but sophomore righty Dan Slavik was able to work out of the jam to help preserve Kent State's win.
Barry was tagged with the mound defeat for Northern Illinois, dropping to 0-4 on the season. He allowed six runs - five earned - on four hits and three walks in 4.1 innings. He struck out two.
Klonowski led the Huskies at the plate with a double and three singles.
Game two of the three-game weekend set is slated for Saturday with first pitch coming at 1 p.m. at Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium. Junior righty Ryan Bores will make his first home start wearing the Blue & Gold. email@example.com or follow us on Twitter @SportsSentinel POSTED 03/24/2012 01:37