Kent State outlasts Texas State
Golden Flashes plate two runs in 11th inning to pick up victory
AUSTIN, Texas -- Sophomore pinch hitter Jason Bagoly delivered the game-winning RBI single in the top of the 11th inning to push No. 3-seeded Kent State baseball team to a 4-2 triumph against No. 2-seeded Texas State on Friday in the opening game of the Austin Regional.
Ranked No. 24 in the nation according to the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, the Golden Flashes (44-15) won their first NCAA postseason game since eliminating then No. 24-ranked Cal Poly, 10-9, on May 30, 2009, at the Tempe Regional.
"We're in great shape," said seventh-year head coach and Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year Scott Stricklin. " Everyone assumes we're playing Texas. Princeton is a good team, but I think we are prepared to play Texas."
With Friday's contest against Texas State (40-22) knotted at two-all in the 11th inning, junior catcher David Lyon drew a leadoff walk. Bagoly entered the contest and watched a ball sail by on the first pitch he saw. Texas State sophomore catcher Andrew Stumph attempted to pick Lyon off at first, but the ball got away and allowed Lyon to scamper to third. Bagoly capitalized on the golden opportunity by hitting a single through the left side to plate Lyon and give the Flashes the lead. After moving to second on a groundout, Bagoly was replaced on the base path by redshirt sophomore pinch runner Nick Hamilton. After advancing to third on another groundout, Hamilton scrambled home on a passed ball to give Kent State a 4-2 advantage.
"Coach came up to me and told me to relax and not do too much, just try to hit the ball to the right side because we just had to score one guy," said Bagoly. "Once Lyon got to third base, I kind of relaxed a little bit because I knew that all I had to do is put the ball in play or get a ball to the outfield."
Junior right-handed Third Team All-America reliever Kyle McMillen completed his 2.1 frames of work by sitting the Bobcats down in order and ending the contest in emphatic fashion by delivering a strikeout. McMillen worked over two innings of scoreless ball, striking out two while walking one and hitting a batter while improving to 1-2 on the season.
"You have to attack," said McMillen. "It's the only way I know how to pitch. Today, I did not come out with my laser focus like I usually do, so I tried to pick it up and really focus in. It just seemed to work for me at the end. Some guys made some great plays."
McMillen and senior right-hander Justin Gill combined to reliever senior starting southpaw and MAC Pitcher of the Year Kyle Hallock, who put together a solid 6.1 frames of work. He fanned three and allowed one earned run on four hits and three walks.
Texas State junior left-handed reliever Jeff McVaney suffered the pitching defeat and fell to 1-2 on the season, allowing two unearned runs on one hit and two walks while striking out one. Junior right-handed starting pitcher Carson Smith tossed nine frames and fanned five while allowing two earned runs on eight hits and one walk.
"We expected it to be a pitcher's duel, and Carson Smith was outstanding for Texas State," said Stricklin. "Kyle Hallock did what he has done all year long. He's just a competitor, he really battles, and I'm really proud of the way he pitched. When we get to the back end of games we feel really comfortable about our bullpen. Justin Gill and Kyle McMillen have been really good."
Kent State landed the first punch in the top of the second inning when Lyon posted the game's first base hit with a single up the middle. After advancing to second on a groundout, sophomore first baseman George Roberts smacked a single to right to plate Lyon and give the Golden Flashes a 1-0 lead.
Hallock battled through a tough start to the bottom of the second to keep the Bobcats off the scoreboard despite a bases-loaded opportunity for Texas State. Sophomore catcher Andrew Stumph led off the frame with a single through the left side. Sophomore third baseman Kyle Kubitza laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Stumph to second and reached safely on a throwing error, putting two on with no outs for the Bobcats. Hallock forced Stumph out at third when sophomore Cory Falvey bunted back to the mound and subsequently reached on a fielder's choice. Kubitza stole third, then Falvey took second on a wild pitch to put two in scoring position with one out for Texas State. Hallock saved the Flashes from giving up a run by flashing his leather on a sharp liner back to the mound. He then forced Falvey out at third by inducing a groundout by freshman shortstop Christian Gallegos to lead Kent State out of the inning unscathed.
Hallock sat down 11 of the next 12 batters after navigating through the second innings, but the Bobcats evened the score at one-all courtesy of some two-out lightning in the sixth. Stumph got the rally started with a base hit to left, and Kubitza coaxed a walk to put two on for Texas State. Falvey tied the game by driving in Stumph with a single to right.
Kent State broke the two-all tie in the top of the seventh. Freshman designated hitter T.J. Sutton got things rolling with a one-out double to right center. Roberts followed by drawing a walk. Redshirt junior left fielder Joe Koch filled the bags with Flashes thanks to a base hit to left. Sophomore center fielder Evan Campbell took the lead back for Kent State by plating Sutton with an infield single to second.
The Bobcats evened the score again in the eighth when junior first baseman Casey Kalenkosky cracked a leadoff double to left and later scored when Kubitza served up a sacrifice fly to left to allow Kalenkosky to tag up and tie the contest.
Neither squad managed to take advantage of base runners over the next three frames, but the Flashes finally broke through in the 11th and McMillen pitched a perfect bottom half to seal the deal. The victory improved Kent State to 3-1 in extra inning games this season.
Roberts led the Golden Flashes at the plate with a three-hit performance. Koch also collected two hits.
"Today, we had some unsung heroes offensively," said Stricklin. "The middle of our order struggled today but sometimes you see that against really good pitchers. They really bear down and really handle those 3-4-5 guys and they did a really good job with that but our bottom of the order did a great job. "