Story courtesy of Kent State Sports Information
AUSTIN, Texas -- Junior catcher David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.) crushed a grand slam in the sixth inning, and the No. 24-ranked Kent State baseball team held off a late charge to take down No. 5-ranked Texas, 7-5, today (June 4) at UFCU Disch-Falk Field to advance to the 2011 NCAA Championship Austin Regional Final.
The No. 3-seeded Golden Flashes (45-15) advance to a regional final for the first time since 2001. Kent State played its way out of the Starkville Regional's loser's bracket to face Mississippi State in the regional title game, where the Flashes ultimately lost, 14-4. The 2011 squad becomes the second in program history to reach the 45-win mark, joining the 1992 team in achieving the most victories in program history. Kent State's win over Texas is the third triumph over a ranked opponent in 2011. The Golden Flashes defeated No. 9 Georgia Tech, 6-1, on Feb. 20 and No. 21 Coastal Carolina, 2-0, on March 11.
"I thought that was just a wonderful ballgame all the way around," said Kent State 14th-year associate head coach/pitching coach Mike Birkbeck. "The Texas Longhorns did not give up. They got down to their last out. But, we are thrilled to be in the position that we are in.
Kent State awaits the result of tomorrow's loser's bracket final game between the No. 1-seeded Longhorns (44-16) and No. 2 seeded Texas State (41-22), which will be held Sunday (June 5) at 2 p.m. EST (1 p.m. CST). The Flashes will face the survivor of that do-or-die elimination game at 7:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. CST). A Kent State victory will send the Golden Flashes to the Super Regional for the first time in program history. Junior left-hander David Starn (Hudson, Ohio) is expected to get the start on the hill for Kent State.
Redshirt sophomore left-handed starting pitcher Andrew Chafin (Wakeman, Ohio) fanned eight over 8.2 frames to up his season record to 8-1. He allowed four runs - three of them earned - on four hits. He increased his season strikeout total to 105, which ranks as the third most in a single season in the Kent State record books.
"I just went out there and threw my game," said Chafin. "They were flushing me a little bit, but then once I got settled back down, I zoned in and was able to finish what I started for the most part.
Senior right fielder Ben Klafczynski (Granger Township, Ohio) led Kent State's offensive attack with three hits - including two doubles - to go along with an RBI and a run scored. His three-hit effort was his team-best 27th multi-hit game of the season and his ninth with three hits. Sophomore center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio) added two singles, two RBIs and a run scored.
Kent State handed Texas right-handed starting pitcher Taylor Jungmann his first ever loss on his home field and chased him from the contest in the sixth courtesy of seven earned runs.
Down 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth with momentum swung in favor of the Longhorns after seventh-year Kent State and Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year Scott Stricklin was ejected, the Golden Flashes responded like champions. Junior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) got the rally going by running the count full and drawing a walk from Jungmann. Junior third baseman Travis Shaw (Washington Court House, Ohio) followed with a single up the middle, and Klafczynski loaded the bags with a base hit to left. That set the stage for the second grand slam of Lyon's career, which came on a 1-2 count and sailed over the left field wall and into the Kent State bullpen to give the Flashes a 6-2 lead.
"There were no outs when I came up, and I was just trying to get a hit and come up big for my team," said Lyon. "He got ahead 0-2, so I was trying to just battle and put the ball in play to see if something would happen. He threw a fastball off the plate that was off. Then he just kept throwing curveballs, so he must have hung one, and I got a hold of it."
Kent State tacked on its seventh run two outs later redshirt junior left fielder Joe Koch (Youngstown, Ohio) drew a walk, advanced to second on a single by freshman second baseman Derek Toadvine (Springfield, Ohio), stole third and then scored courtesy of a single to left by Campbell.
Chafin sat down the Longhorns in order in the seventh and eighth and quickly recorded the first two outs of the ninth, but Texas wasn't going to go down easily. Sophomore designated hitter Jonathan Walsh doubled down the right field line, then moved up to third on a passed ball to spark the Texas charge. Montalbano followed with a walk, setting up a pinch-hit three-run home run to over the right field wall by Kevin Lusson cut Kent State's lead to two. The Longhorns continued to put the pressure on Kent State's pitching by putting runners on the corners, but junior right-handed closer and Louisville Slugger All-America selection Kyle McMillen (North Canton, Ohio) entered the game and forced a pop up to Toadvine to seal his team-record 18th save of the 2011 season.
Chafin set the tone for the Flashes from the get-go, striking out the side in the top of the first.
Kent State's offense backed up its starting arm by getting on the scoreboard first in the bottom half of the frame. Campbell legged out a leadoff infield single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Rider and moved to third on a groundout by junior third baseman Shaw. Klafczynski came up big with a two-out single to right center to plate Campbell and land the contest's first punch.
After Chafin sat down the first nine batters he faced, the Longhorns struck back the second time through the order. Senior first baseman Tant Shepherd led off the fourth with a single back up the middle. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman right fielder Mark Payton and to third on a passed ball. Freshman third baseman Erich Weiss evened the score at one-all by serving up a sacrifice fly to center, allowing Shepherd to tag up and score.
Texas took the lead by tallying a single score in the fifth. Senior left fielder Paul Montlabano led the frame off with a base hit to left and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman catcher Jacob Felts. The Longhorns loaded the bases with one out after junior second baseman Jordan Etier singled through the left side and sophomore center fielder Cohl Walla was hit by a pitch. The Longhorns got a run out of it when Montalbano scored on a fielder's choice that put Shepherd on, but Chafin prevented any further damage by inducing a groundout by Payton to end the inning. That's as close to victory as the Longhorns got, though, as Kent State put together its six-run rally in the sixth and held on for the win.