For the second time in one afternoon, Kent State University had the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth with a chance to tie or win the game against the University of Akron.
After an around-the-horn double play dashed KSU’s chances in the first game, Jon Collins made sure it wouldn’t happen again in the second. His opposite-field single gave the Golden Flashes a 5-4 victory over the rival Zips.
The Flashes (30-21, 15-11) helped the Zips (25-26, 12-14) out in the top of the ninth, blowing a 4-3 lead that forced the bottom half of the inning.
Reliever Andy Ravel retired the first batter and struck out the second, but a passed ball allowed him to reach base. After retiring the next batter, a wild pitch advanced the runner to second before Ravel hit a batter to put two on base. Billy Salem then knocked in an RBI single to tie the score at 4-4 when the inning, and game, should have been over.
“We kind of created our own bad luck there,” Flashes coach Jeff Duncan said. “That dropped their strike, gave them another life and then they executed getting the hit. That’s how it’s been going for us the last couple weeks, so it’s nice to see us respond in the bottom of the ninth.”
After getting some help from Kent in the top half of the inning, Akron returned the favor in the bottom half with a similar display.
Zips reliever Andrew Fanning walked the first batter before hitting two of the next three to load the bases before Wilson’s heroics.
The Flashes first got on the board in the third inning when first basemen Cody Koch hit his team-leading seventh home run of the season. The three-run shot was the loudest at-bat of the inning, but perhaps not the most important.
The batter before Koch, right fielder T.J. Sutton, put together an impressive at-bat to extend the inning and put two on for Koch. Sutton took a called first strike in which he asked for time, stepped out of the box, but didn’t receive it. He then worked the count to 2-2 before checking his swing on a borderline ball to extend the count to 3-2. After fouling off two pitches, he completed the nine-pitch at-bat with a two-out walk that put two runners on for Koch.
“I told them after the game that at-bat was huge,” Duncan said. “That messes with their pitcher a little mentally, and then you see what happened with the next at-bat.”
The Zips responded with three runs of their own in the following inning on two-out hits by Evan Meeker and Matt LaRocca.
Starter Nick Jensen-Clagg worked six innings for the Flashes, allowing three earned runs on eight hits. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.
The Zips won the first game by a final score of 8-7, led by Devan Ahart’s big day at the plate. Ahart went 4-for-4 with a double and three RBI.
Heading into the final game of the season at Kent State today, a Zips win would clinch their first Mid-American Conference Tournament berth since 2005. They could still clinch without a win, but would need some help with losses from Western Michigan or Northern Illinois.
“We’re in the same position we were in going into the day,” Zips interim coach Fred Worth said. “We control our own destiny tomorrow. Can’t ask for anything more than that.”
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