AVON: The Kent State baseball team needed every bit of patience it could muster Thursday in the second game of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
It eventually paid off in a 12-3 win over Western Michigan at All Pro Freight Stadium.
“That was a real dogfight,” KSU coach Scott Stricklin said.
Given the score, that statement doesn’t appear to ring true, but looks often deceive. KSU wasn’t able to produce any semblance of a consistent offense until late in the game against Broncos pitcher Steve Laudicina (7-4).
Laudicina cruised for much of the game, working his way out of jams through the first six innings.
“Luckily, Ryan Bores just kept us in there and gave us a chance until we got going,” Stricklin said.
Bores pitched eight innings, gave up three earned runs, struck out three and walked none in his first tournament appearance.
“I just wanted to go out there and throw as many strikes as I could, not walk anybody and let our guys hit,” Bores said. “That’s what we do.”
As the game entered the middle innings, Golden Flashes hitters began to go deep into the pitch count against Laudicina until the jams became inescapable.
Trailing 3-1, KSU finally broke through in the top of the seventh with a three-run rally.
Laudicina gave up consecutive hits to begin the seventh before Broncos coach Billy Gernon replaced him with Monty Porter. Porter gave up a walk to load the bases and Stricklin sent Nick Hamilton in to pinch hit for designated hitter Jason Bagoly.
Hamilton singled in a run to make it 3-2. Right fielder T.J. Sutton followed with a ground-rule double that scored two more and KSU led 4-3.
“Laudicina started to get tired and our guys could sense that. We had some good at-bats got some guys on and we finally broke through,” Stricklin said.
After that double, KSU finally seemed able to relax.
“It was about time. There it is,” Bores said to himself after Sutton’s double gave his team the lead.
First baseman George Roberts, the MAC Player of the Year, credited Bores for battling for much of the game despite not having his best stuff.
Roberts also helped rid the game of its uncertainty just two innings later when KSU unleashed an eight-run scoring barrage to solidify it.
The ultimate exclamation point came when Roberts launched a shot over the fence with the bases loaded to give KSU an 11-3 lead.
“Their pitcher finally made a mistake and I took advantage of it,” he said.
Kent State will play the winner of the 9 a.m. Buffalo-Western Michigan game at 4 p.m. today and is firmly in control of its own fate. KSU has to be beaten twice and is playing with confidence.
“We’re going to win,” Bores said.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.