Kent State Claims MAC Baseball Regular Season Title

Updated 5/20/2011
Thursday's MAC Baseball Results
Kent State 4, Akron 3
Eastern Michigan 11, Central Michigan 10 (14 innings)
Western Michigan 5, Northern Illinois 3




Stories courtesy of MAC Sports Information Departments

Kent State 4, Akron 3
AKRON, Ohio -- Senior right fielder Ben Klafczynski (Granger Township, Ohio) crushed a leadoff solo shot to right center field in the eighth inning to break a two-all tie to help the Kent State baseball team clinch its 11th Mid-American Conference regular season title - and first since 2008 - with a 4-3 victory over MAC East Division rival Akron today (May 19) in the Fifth Annual Diamond Classic For Kids at Canal Park.

"Ben was able to pick us up and get the big home run," said seventh-year head coach Scott Stricklin. "Guys were saying when he came into the dugout after hitting the home run 'Great job senior, great job captain,' and that's the ultimate compliment. He's one of the best players to play at Kent State, and it's very fitting that he was a crucial part of the win."

Ranked No. 28 in the nation according to the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, the Golden Flashes (38-15, 20-4 MAC) clinched the No. 1 seed in the MAC Tournament, which is set to begin next Wednesday (May 25) at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio. Kent State will be shooting for its third straight MAC Tournament crown and NCAA Regional berth. Kent State has won 29 of its last 33 games and now holds a 3-2 series edge over the Zips (15-36, 6-19 MAC) in the Diamond Classic series. Gate proceeds from the Diamond Classic go to benefit Akron Children's Hospital. The Flashes reached the 20-win mark in MAC play for the first time under Stricklin and first time since 2003 and marks the seventh time in program history they have achieved the feat.

Klafczynski led the way at the plate with two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored. Junior right-handed closer Kyle McMillen (North Canton, Ohio) - the nation's leader in saves -- entered the contest in the top of the ninth and secured his MAC and team-record 16th of the season to nail down the championship. Senior right-handed reliever Justin Gill (Canton, Ohio) earned the mound triumph to improve to 3-2 in 2011. Junior right-handed starting pitcher Ryan Mace (Tallmadge, Ohio) struck out four over six frames.

"It's unbelievable," said McMillen. "I was getting a little bit choked up about it. It's all about playing for championships and playing against our rival. It was a great stage and a great game."

Kent State put up a two-spot in the bottom of the first to take the early advantage. Sophomore second baseman Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio) got things started with a leadoff double to left. After Campbell moved to third on a flyout to right by third baseman Travis Shaw (Washington Courthouse, Ohio), senior right fielder Klafczynski drove him home with a single to center. Junior catcher David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.) made it 2-0 in favor of the Flashes by knocking a triple down the right field line to plate Klafczynski.

The Zips answered by placing single tallies on the scoreboard in the second and fourth to tie the game, but Klafczynski's timely blast and Lyon reaching on and Akron fielding error and later scoring on an infield single by redshirt junior Joe Koch (Youngstown, Ohio) provided the winning margin for the Flashes.

"I came in from right field that inning knowing that we needed to score and that our bullpen would get it done if we could get some runs on the board," said Klafczynski. I just had to focus on finding a good pitch and making a good swing."

Kent State looks to secure its eighth MAC series win in nine tries this season Friday (May 20) as the series shifts to Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium. Senior southpaw Kyle Hallock (Sandusky, Ohio) gets the starting nod for the Flashes and aims at his 10th pitching victory of the season. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Eastern Michigan 11, Central Michigan 10 (14 innings)
YPSILANTI, Mich. (EMUEagles.com) - A 14-inning affair culminated with a game-winning double by Kyle Peterson (Chandler, Ariz.-Hamilton-Chandler-Gilbert C.C.) to win it for the Eastern Michigan University baseball team as it defeated Central Michigan University, 11-10, to leapfrog the 'Chips and move into sole possession of first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division. The Eagles need just one win in their final two games to clinch the MAC West title, which would be their first since 2008.

It was a resilient effort on the part of both teams as EMU posted 11 runs on 19 hits and used seven different pitchers en route to the victory. Meanwhile, CMU scored 10 runs on 14 hits and used five pitchers upon suffering the loss. The Eagles overcame a deficit on four separate occasions before finally putting away the Chippewas with a run in the 14th frame.

EMU's Brian Valente (Macomb, Mich.-Eisenhower-Saginaw Valley State) earned the win and moves to 4-0 on the season with an inning and a third in relief while CMU's Ryan Longstreth takes the loss and falls to 1-5.

The top six hitters in the EMU lineup combined for 13 hits. Peterson finished with a 1-for-3 effort including a hit-by-pitch, three walks, an RBI and a run scored from the ninth spot in the order. Tucker Rubino (Scottsdale, Ariz.-Horizon-Glendale C.C.), who went 4-for-7 with three RBI and a run scored, provided the game-tying two-run double to left center field in the bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra-innings.

Brent Ohrman (Adrian, Mich.-Adrian) went 2-for-6 at the dish and blasted his second home run of the season, a three-run, no-doubter to left center to lead the Eagles to a three-run fifth inning.

The Eagles improved to 34-18 overall, 16-9 in the MAC while the Chippewas fell to 27-25 (15-9 MAC).

Central Michigan scratched across a run in the first and a run in the third to take, what seemed to be, a commanding lead with starting pitcher Trent Howard on the mound.

The CMU ace was effective early, tallying six strikeouts through the first four innings while striking out the side in the fourth. But the Eagles were content on running up his pitch count by being patient and working the count.

It finally caught up with him in what became a five-run fifth inning that chased the junior from the game. It started with a hit-by-pitch to Peterson followed by a single from Ken Battiston (West Milton, Ohio-Milton Union). The next batter, Ohrman, then took a 1-0 fastball and scorched his second home run over the left center field wall to give the Eagles a 3-2 advantage. Three more hits in the frame led to two more runs and that would be it for Howard who allowed five runs on eight hits while striking out six and walking two over five innings of work.

Meanwhile, EMU's ace left-hander Robert Wendzicki (Brook Park, Ohio-Midpark) made his final appearance at Oestrike Stadium a positive one, leaving with an eighth inning lead after giving up a leadoff double to William Arnold. The senior allowed four runs (3 earned) on eight hits and struck out two while walking just one over seven-plus innings.

The Chippewas took advantage of Steve Weber (North Royalton, Ohio-North Royalton) and Kristian Calibuso (Brandon, Fla.-Armwood-Florida State College at Jacksonville) for five runs in the inning to take an 8-6 lead before Tim Combs (Dayton, Ohio-Wayne) came on in relief for his first appearance in nearly a month and retired the side with back-to-back strikeouts. He went on to throw three and two-thirds hitless innings for the Eagles in a time when they needed it the most.

Things looked bleak for the Green and White as CMU's Dietrich Enns came on with two on and two out in the bottom of the eighth and got Battiston to strikeout looking to end the threat. Enns came into the game with a 4-1 record and a 2.16 ERA in nine appearances in MAC play, but the Eagles got to him in the ninth.

Ohrman started the inning off with a double that snuck inside the right field line. He advanced to third base after Zack Leonard (Canton, Ohio-McKinley) reached on a throwing error by the third baseman, Tyler Hall. With runners on second and third, Rubino stepped up and cranked his fifth double of the season to left center to tie the game at 8-8.

After a Sam Ott (Canton, Mich.-Salem) walk, Daniel Russell (Grandville, Mich.-Grandville) laced a line drive to left field, but his counterpart and older brother, Sam, made a shoelace catch to preserve the tie and send it to extras.

Both teams were held scoreless until the 12th inning. CMU regained the lead with a one out RBI groundout by Robbie Harman, scoring Nate Theunissen from third base to give the 'Chips a 9-8 lead.

The resilient Eastern Michigan offense then started with a leadoff single by Russell. The sophomore would advance to third on Enns' failed a pickoff attempt when his throw sailed over the head of first baseman Brendan Emmett. The next batter, Kyle Klein (Grand Rapids, Mich.-West Catholic), then tied it at 9-9 with a single to right field.

In the 13th inning, CMU got another rally going as Emmett singled off Neil Butara (Euclid, Ohio-St. Ignatius) to lead off the frame. After a pair of groundouts advanced him to third base, Jordan Dean singled him home with a line drive to center field. Valente came in with two on and two-out and walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, but got the next batter Matt Faiman to fly out to center to end the inning.

Enns came back out for the bottom of the 13th inning and struck out Leonard to begin the frame. Ben Magsig (Okemos, Mich.-Okemos-Lansing C.C.) singled before Rubino flew out for the second out in the frame. Ott then singled to left, but a fielding error allowed Magsig to make it all the way around to score the tying run and make it 10-10.

In the 14th, Valente retired the side in order with a pair of strikeouts. In the bottom half, Longstreth spelled Enns after the sophomore had allowed four runs (1 earned) on six hits while striking out seven Eagles over five and a third innings of strong relief.

Longstreth gave up a one out double to Wally Gerbus (Fairfield, Ohio-Stephen T. Baden) before Peterson took a 3-1 fastball and sent the EMU faithful home with a game-winning double to the gap in left center field.

It marked the longest game of the season for the Eagles to date as it clocked in at four hours, 45 minutes. It was also the eighth extra-inning game of the season and put the Eagles at a season-high 16 games above .500.

Both teams will meet in the second game of a three-game set tomorrow, May 20, where EMU's Joe Battistelli (Allen Park, Mich.-Allen Park) will toe the rubber against CMU's Zach Cooper. A win for the Eagles would clinch their first MAC West Division title since 2008.

Western Michigan 5, Northern Illinois 3
KALAMAZOO, Mich.- Western Michigan punched its ticket to the upcoming Mid-American Conference Tournament with a 5-3 win over Northern Illinois Thursday. Eight teams will qualify for the tournament, May 25-28, at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio.

A 15-minute downpour delayed the start of Thursday's game one of the series and Western Michigan didn't get off to the start it wanted, committing three early errors and putting itself in a 2-0 deficit. The Broncos rebounded well though, led by the effort of junior right-hander Brian Stroud.

Stroud struck out seven over eight innings and did not allow an earned run, scattering five hits. He also did not issue a walk, earning his seventh win of the year. Stroud retired the Huskies in order in the second, fourth, seventh and eighth and also would have had them down in order in the first if it weren't for a fielding error.

WMU gave up the two unearned runs in the top of the third, but responded with two runs in the bottom of the frame. The first run was generated off a walk, an error and a pair of singles, Troy Forton recording an RBI. Zach Thoma scored the second on a wild pitch.

Junior third baseman Ryan McMillin pushed WMU's lead to 4-2 in the fifth with two-out, two run double down the right field line.

NIU scored another unearned run in the sixth to inch within one, 4-3, but Stroud shut the door in the seventh and eighth and Eric Heckaman closed out the ninth for his team-leading ninth save of the year.

Jack Scanlon gave WMU an insurance run in the seventh, driving in a run with a double off the right field wall. The Broncos appeared to score another run in the inning when Troy Forton bolted home from third on a wild pitch, but was called out at the plate.

After a two-year hiatus, the Broncos will be making their first trip back to the MAC Tournament since 2008. With two games to go, Western Michigan's conference record sits even at 12-12 and its overall record at 25-27 under first year head coach Billy Gernon.

Forton, Scanlon and Jimmy Martinez each had two hits in the game, as the Broncos totaled nine. NIU starter Zach Oates took the loss, allowing four runs and six hits in 5.0 innings pitched.

Western Michigan and Northern Illinois (27-25, 14-11 MAC) return to Robert J. Bobb Stadium at Hyames Field for game two tomorrow at 3 p.m. and conclude the series Saturday with game three at 1 p.m.