LOUISVILLE, Ky.: If Kent State is to take a stab at matching the magical run that earned them a spot in the College World Series in 2012, they’re going to have to recover from the beating they received at the hands of the University of Louisville Friday night at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The No. 1 seeded Cardinals (46-15) came out and capitalized on early Kent State (36-22) mistakes in a 5-0 victory that put the Golden Flashes in a win-or-go-home situation for an early game today.
A two-run fielding error provided the only scoring that the Cardinals needed, but for good measure they scored runs in the game’s first three innings.
"They got a lot of momentum in those first three innings," KSU coach Jeff Duncan said, "and we really had a tough time coming back from it."
Junior left-hander Brian Clark (6-7, 3.76 ERA) started for the Flashes and right-hander Kyle Funkhouser (13-2, 1.68 ERA) went for the Cardinals.
Funkhouser cruised through his performance striking out 10 of the 29 batters he faced. Clark should have had a better fate, but the two unearned runs gave Louisville momentum that they rode through to the game’s end. It was one of two errors that produced Cardinals runs.
The Flashes blew an opportunity to score in the top of the first inning, wasting a lead-off single from outfielder Jon Wilson. Left fielder Troy Summers moved him over into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt and first baseman Cody Koch drew a walk, but designated hitter Zarley Zalewski struck out and right fielder T.J. Sutton grounded into a fielder’s choice, stranding two base runners.
The Cardinals had few such qualms attacking with small ball on offense early on. With their lead-off runner on with a walk, center fielder Cole Sturgeon laid down the perfect bunt just past Clark giving the Flashes no play.
A sacrifice bunt by designated hitter Nick Solak moved the runners and the pivotal two-run fielding error on Kent State shortshop Zach Beckner, a freshman, gave Louisville a 2-0 lead.
"These kids are human beings," Duncan said. "They’re young. Everyone’s talking about how we have 13 kids from the College World Series run, but if you look on that field today there was only one. That was our right fielder who had experience in this type of setting."
KSU will face second-seeded Kentucky at 1 p.m.
After a total of three hours and 20-plus minutes in delays because of lightning and rain, a scheduled 6 p.m. first pitch didn’t get happen until 9:30.
KSU could have argued that prolonged rain delays had an effect. Instead Duncan turned his focus to a game that will decide whether his team’s season ends.
"We’ve got a good feel for Kentucky," he said. "I think we have to make a couple of adjustments going into tomorrow and be a bit more aggressive at the plate. We’re going to have to try to get as much rest as we can, get fluids in these guys and get back at it [today]. It’s win or go home."