– New year. New faces. New site. New ranked opponent. Same result.
Junior right-handed starting pitcher Ryan Bores (Strongsville, Ohio) went the distance, and the bats came alive to the tune of seven runs on 13 hits to help push No. 25 Kent State baseball past No. 16 Purdue, 7-3, Saturday (June 2) at U.S. Steel Yard in the winner's bracket final of the 2012 NCAA Championship Gary Regional, sending the Blue & Gold back to a regional final for a second straight year and putting the squad one victory away from clinching the program's first NCAA Regional title and first NCAA Super Regional berth.
"It was a great win for our program," said eighth-year head coach and 2012 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year Scott Stricklin. "We were hoping for seven, wishing for eight and dreaming for nine from Ryan, and we got it. He was outstanding. Every time they had a little bit of momentum, he was able to make a great pitch and our guys turned double plays."
Ranked No. 25 in the nation according to Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, the Golden Flashes (43-17) ran their nation-long winning streak to 19 games with their first victory in four tries against the Boilermakers (45-12). Kent State has won 34 of their last 41 games – including 23 of their last 25. Kent State, the regional's No. 3 seed, advanced to its second straight NCAA Regional Winner's Bracket Final by outlasting Kentucky, the regional's No. 2 seed and the No. 13-ranked team in the country. The Wildcats kept their season alive by knocking off regional No. 4 seed Valparaiso, 8-1, in an elimination game earlier in the day Saturday.
Purdue and Kentucky will lock horns in another elimination contest Sunday (June 3) at 4 p.m. (3 p.m. CT). The victor of that contest will play the Flashes at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. CT). The Golden Flashes can send themselves to the NCAA Super Regionals – college baseball's version of college basketball's Sweet 16 – with a win Sunday. A loss would force a winner-take-all game Monday (June 4). In 2011, Kent State earned a berth in the NCAA Championship Austin Regional and the program's first-ever national tournament regional No. 3 seed. The Flashes tallied an 11-inning 4-2 win over Texas State and followed it with a 7-5 winner's bracket final triumph over regional host and No. 5-ranked Texas to earn the school's second-ever berth in a regional final.
A night after Kent State was forced to use five pitchers in the 21-inning marathon win over Kentucky, Bores gave the Golden Flashes a complete game when they had to have it, striking out two over nine frames of work and limited Purdue to three earned runs on nine hits and a walk to improve to 9-2 on the season.
"I was just trying to throw strikes and let guys behind me make plays," said Bores. "We have two good middle infielders, and they turned double plays for me and helped me a lot."
Four Kent State batters posted multi-hit efforts, led by a double and two singles apiece by senior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) – the Mid-American Conference's all-time hits leader – and senior catcher and 2012 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award finalist David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.). Rider, who increased his career hits total to 345, drove in three runs and scored two more, breaking Kent State's career runs scored with 212, a mark previously held by Ben Klafczynski (2008-11). Junior center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio) finished with a triple and a single and two runs scored while sophomore second baseman Derek Toadvine (Springfield, Ohio) added two base hits and a run scored.
Purdue, designated as the away team for Saturday's game, landed the first punch in the top of the first inning with a senior second baseman Eric Charles hit a one-out single to center field, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored one out later on a base hit down the left field line by junior catcher Kevin Plawecki to give the Boilermakers an early 1-0 lead.
Kent State quickly answered back in home half of the opening frame when Campbell sent a leadoff single to center, moved to third on a double down the right field line by Lyon and scored on an RBI groundout by junior first baseman and 2012 MAC Player of the Year George Roberts (Summerhill, Pa.).
The Boilermakers grabbed the lead back in the second when junior first baseman Angelo Cianfrocco smacked a leadoff double to right center, advanced 90 feet to third on a groundout by senior designated hitter Ryan Bridges and scored when senior shortstop David Miller.
The Flashes responded by completely swinging momentum back in their favor with a five-run outburst in the home half of the second that came courtesy of two-out lightning. Freshman left fielder Alex Miklos (Grove City, Pa.) hit a two-out single through the right side on an 0-2 count to get things rolling. Toadvine followed with a single up the middle, and Campbell filled the bases with Flashes by drawing a walk to set the stage for Rider's bases-clearing double down the left field line to give the Flashes a 4-2 lead. Lyon drove home Rider with a single through the right side, then Roberts made it a four-run ballgame by doubling in Lyon.
"Miklos started it off, and Toadvine came up and had a knock, and we just started building momentum," said Lyon.
The Boilermakers put two on with no outs in the fourth when senior right fielder Barrett Serrato drew a walk, and Cianfrocco followed with a single up the middle. Bores got out of the jam, though, by forcing a 5-4-3 double play, then shrugged off hitting Miller and senior left fielder Tyler Spillner with pitches by striking out senior center fielder Andrew Dixon.
Kent State extended its lead to 7-2 in the home half of the fourth when Rider hit a leadoff single through the right side, moved to third on a single through the right side by Lyon and scored on an RBI fielder's choice that put Roberts on.
Bores made quick work of the Boilermakers in the fifth and sixth, then got out of another two-on, no-out jam in the seventh. Spillner and Dixon led off the frame with back-to-back singles, but Bores forced Charles to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.
Purdue got a run back in the eighth when Plawecki hit a leadoff triple to left and scored on an RBI groundout by Serrato to make it a 7-3 contest, but Bores trotted back out to the mound in the ninth and retired the Boilermakers in order to nail down the victory.
Senior right-handed starting pitcher Lance Breedlove was tagged with the loss for Purdue after allowing six earned runs on seven hits and a walk over 1.2 innings of work.
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