Kent State College World Series Central
Story courtesy of Kent State Sports Information
Arkansas 8, Kent State 1
OMAHA, Neb. – No. 8 Kent State baseball fell to No. 6 Arkansas, 8-1, Saturday (June 16) in the opening game of Bracket 2 of the 2012 NCAA College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park.
Ranked No. 8 in the nation according to the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, the Golden Flashes (46-19) will be forced to play an elimination game Monday (June 18) at 5 p.m. ET (4 p.m. ET) in a nationally televised game on ESPN2 against the loser of the second game of Bracket 2 between No. 1 Florida and No. 2 South Carolina, which got underway shortly after the conclusion of Kent State's loss to Arkansas (45-20).
"Overall, it's disappointing," said eighth-year head coach and 2012 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year Scott Stricklin. "We got another crack at somebody on Monday. I told the guys in right field, we either play the number one team in the country or the two‑time defending national champion, so we've got a tough task ahead of us."
Kent State could not solve the riddle of Arkansas junior right-handed starting pitcher DJ Baxendale in its CWS debut. The 10th-round MLB First-Year Player Draft pick of the Minnesota Twins limited the Flashes to one earned run on three hits and a walk while striking out five over 6.1 innings to improve to 8-5 on the season. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Brandon Moore picked up his third save of the season for the Razorbacks. He allowed one hit over 2.2 frames of relief work.
"DJ Baxendale was outstanding," said Stricklin. "He kept us off balance. Fastball was sharp and throw the breaking ball behind the count. He really competes. We told our guys he's really going to compete, and he was on, too, so when you compete like that and you've got great stuff, it's going to be really, really difficult to hit. He was the reason why we struggled a little bit, no question about it."
Senior southpaw ace and 2012 Louisville Slugger Second Team All-America pick David Starn (Hudson, Ohio) suffered the pitching defeat for the Golden Flashes, falling to 11-4 on the season and 29-10 for his career. He surrendered five earned runs on six hits and six walks over 5.2 innings. Kent State's all-time strikeouts leader, Starn upped his career total to 347. Senior right-handed pitcher Ryan Mace (Tallmadge, Ohio) tossed the final 2.1 innings for Kent State, giving up three earned runs on four hits and a walk. He struck out one.
"It was basically just a flaw in my mechanics," said Starn, the 2012 MAC Pitcher of the Year, of his struggles. "I wasn't really finishing my pitches. And I was leaving them arm‑side, and that's basically what happened with the control issues and everything.
The Razorbacks landed the game's first punch in the bottom of the first inning. Senior shortstop Tim Carver coaxed a leadoff walk and moved up to second courtesy of a sacrifice bunt by freshman designated hitter Joe Serrano. Junior third baseman Matt Reynolds and sophomore first baseman Dominic Ficociello drew back-to-back walks to load the bases with Razorbacks. Arkansas capitalized when freshman right fielder Brian Anderson sent an infield single back up the middle, allowing Carver to score the game's first run. Starn was able to limit the damage, though, by getting senior second baseman Bo Bigham to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play, the first of a season-high four Kent State turned on the day.
Arkansas extended its lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the second on a two-out solo home run over the left field wall by sophomore catcher Jake Wise. The round tripper marked the first Starn allowed since a bomb by Buffalo junior outfielder Matt Pollock to leadoff the April 6 contest at Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium.
Starn kept Arkansas off the scoreboard in the next two frames, but the Razorbacks pushed another run across to extend their lead to 3-0 in the fifth as Wise drew a leadoff walk, advanced 90 feet on a sacrifice bunt by Carver and scored by way of a single to center by Serrano.
Kent State got on the board in the top of the sixth as senior shortstop and MAC all-time hits leader Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) launched a two-out solo shot into the Arkansas bullpen, cutting Kent State's deficit to 3-1. The round tripper was the sixth of the season for Rider and 13th of his career and marked his 351st career hit and team-leading 104th of the 2012 season – a Kent State single-season record.
Unfortunately for the Flashes, Arkansas swung momentum back in its favor courtesy of some two-out lightning in the sixth. Bigham got the charge started with a double down the left field line. Junior left fielder Derrick Bleeker followed by drawing a walk, setting the table for a junior center fielder Matt Vinson to send a two-RBI double down the left field line, plating Bigham and Bleeker and extended the lead to 5-1 for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas tacked on its final three insurance runs in the eighth. The Razorbacks loaded the bases with one out as Anderson singled up the middle, Bigham sent a base hit through the left side and Bleeker drew a walk. Anderson scored on a wild pitch, and Wise drove Bigham and Bleeker home with a single to right to close the scoring for the Razorbacks.
Serrano led Arkansas at the plate with a 3-for-3 effort while Anderson and Bigham added two hits and Wise and collected two base knocks and three RBIs
Junior righty and Second Team All-MAC pick Ryan Bores (Strongsville, Ohio) is expected to get the start on the hill for Kent State. He sports a 9-3 mark on the mound with 67 strikeouts against just 16 walks.