May 22, 2008


Top-seeded Kent State rallies past No. 8 Central Michigan


By Phil Stanton Co-Founder


CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Survive and advance.


It wasn’t pretty, but that’s what top-ranked Kent State did with its 4-2 win over No. 8 Central Michigan Wednesday in the final first-round game of the 2008 Mid-American Conference Tournament at VA Memorial Stadium.


“In the tournament we told our guys before the game it’s going to be a dogfight,” said KSU head coach Scott Stricklin. “There is so much parity in our conference. Central was picked to win the West to begin the season and for them to be an eight-seed, that’s a pretty tough matchup for us. They’re a very, very good team. We knew it was going to be a tough game and we got a lucky break. We scored the two runs on a crazy play, you’ll never see it again. We were very fortunate and we got some very good pitching down the stretch to get us home.”


The sixth inning was pivotal. The Chippewas (29-26-1) looked to break a 2-2 tie in the top of the frame by loading the bases on three walks with no outs. Sophomore Jon Pokorny came in from the bullpen for the Golden Flashes (34-20) and got a strikeout and a double play to end the threat.


In the bottom of the sixth, Brett Weibley had a two-out single up the middle. Cory Hindel then hit an infield single behind second. The second baseman made an ill-advised looping throw toward first that went over the first baseman’s head and hit off the fence in foul territory. Weibley moved to third and Hindel was caught in the rundown between first and second. As he headed back toward first, Weibley broke for home. Before tagging Hindel, the first baseman threw home late as Weibley slid in with the tie-breaking run. The catcher threw to second in an attempt to get Hindel. The centerfielder had come in to help in the rundown and the throw went past the bag and to the warning track in center field. Hindel came all the way around to score the second unearned run of the inning and give KSU a 4-2 advantage.


Pokorny (2-2) worked a 1-2-3 seventh before surrendering consecutive walks with one out in the eighth. A diving catch in center by Jarod Humphreys and a strikeout ended the inning.


“He’s been like that all year,” Stricklin said of Pokorny. “He’s given up one run in the conference all season long, 27 innings in the conference he’s given up one run and that was on a misplayed fly ball. He’s just been outstanding and he’s only a sophomore. That makes us smile a little bit to know we’re having him back. He’s very, very good, he’s very, very calm and completely different guy than he was last year as a freshman. He is the prime example of the difference between freshmen and sophomores. He’s lost 30 pounds. He’s changed his body, he’s changed his outlook on being a baseball player and he’s arguably our most valuable player right now, he’s been that good for us.”


CMU rallied in the ninth against closer Reid Lamport. The first batter was hit by a pitch and the second was retired on a diving catch in left by Anthony Gallas. A groundout to short put KSU within an out of the victory, but back-to-back walks loaded the bases. Freshman Kyle Hallock entered to strike out the game’s final batter to earn his second save.


The Chippewas started the scoring in the top of the first as Tyler Stovall singled to left on the first pitch of the game, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jeff Helps and scored when Sean Hoorelbeke reached on an error. Matt Faiman walked and scored on a single by Noah Lankford to make it 2-0.


The Golden Flashes got on the board in the bottom of the first as Chris Tremblay had a leadoff double and scored on a base hit by Doug Sanders. KSU tied it in the fifth as Hindel started the inning by getting hit by a pitch, moved to second on a one-out single by Sanders and came home on a two-out double by Greg Rohan.