AVON: For the Kent State baseball team to repeat as champions of the Mid-American Conference Tournament, the Golden Flashes (35-21, 20-7) are not only going to have to battle other teams, but by Thursday afternoon at All-Pro Freight Stadium, Mother Nature developed into an unwelcome foe.
With the game before them delayed by close to four hours, KSU’s game against fourth-seeded Ball State was moved from a 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. start courtesy of a pesky band of showers that moved through Northeast Ohio and eventually postponed until today.
Although the rain stopped for a significant period of time due to breaks in the weather system, tournament officials erred on the side of caution and waited to allow it to work its way through.
The big worry for KSU coach Scott Stricklin could have been just how a potential rainout would affect his starting rotation with Tyler Skulina (6-3, 3.63 ERA) slated to pitch for the Golden Flashes. He had a simple answer.
“The rotation will remain the same,” he said. “The way the brackets are set up, hopefully, we’re going to able to get in our game [Thursday night] and keep it to one game a day.”
Casey Wilson (7-5, 3.99 ERA) will start the next game.
To get in one game on each day represents a key for the Flashes.
“That’s the thing you want to try to stay away from is playing two games in one day so we’re not the last game of the day,” Stricklin said.
Holding the No. 1 seed and an opening-round victory over Central Michigan on Wednesday night, the Flashes have an advantage in their schedule as long as they win — no early or late games.
And right now, the stars are aligning to produce a situation similar to last year when KSU arrived at the tournament having won 13 consecutive games.
This year, after a rocky patch near the end of the season against the very same Central Michigan team they beat in the tournament, they arrive having won 14 out of 15.
Stricklin said those problems are corrected.
“We hadn’t been hitting with runners in scoring position and we were as good offensively [Wednesday] night as we’d been all year,” he said. “Our defense early in the year hadn’t been very good and knock on wood, we haven’t made an error in the last five or six games. We’ve been flawless defensively.”
They will likely have to continue that through each game to claim another MAC title. But they had another of Mother Nature’s henchmen to contend with Thursday and into today — a typical Northeast Ohio shift in weather.
Courtesy of the cold front that breezed through, temperatures dropped close to 30 degrees from highs in the mid-80s on Wednesday.
“What we talk about is both teams playing under the same circumstances,” Stricklin said of the weather change. “The conditions shouldn’t bother you. They shouldn’t be an advantage for one team or another because both teams are playing under the same circumstances.”
It’s all part of the game.
“You’re going to have adversity come your way during a game and you’re going to have to overcome it. This week it’s going to be the wind,” he said. “It’s going to be a little bit of rain. It’s going to be a little bit chillier, but it’s still going to be in the 50s and we would have taken that just two months ago.”