June 4, 2011
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Regional Scores & Schedules
Chafin, Kent State Stun Texas
By Sean Ryan
A few years ago, Kent State beat out several
schools in the Mid-American Conference and landed lefty Andrew
“When we signed him, he was 86-87 with a good
breaking ball,” said Golden Flashes coach Scott Stricklin,
noting that his sophomore pitcher wasn’t heavily recruited
outside the MAC.
Something happened before he ever set foot on the
Kent State campus.
“He had a big growth spurt,” Stricklin said. “It
was one of those things, he woke up one morning and grew three
inches and gained 20 pounds.”
Fast forward three years – including 15 months
recovering from Tommy John surgery – and Chafin boasts a
fastball that reaches the mid-90s.
Texas, the No. 7 national seed, and the rest of
the college baseball world got a glimpse at one of the nation’s
next big stars: Chafin handcuffed the Longhorns (44-16) for 8.2
innings as Kent State (45-15) built a five-run lead and held on
for a 7-5 win before a crowd of 6,288 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
The Golden Flashes scored six times in the sixth,
four coming on David Lyon’s grand slam off Longhorns ace Taylor
Jungmann (13-1) and two more coming on a single from Evan
Campbell. Jungmann entered with a 0.95 ERA before allowing seven
earned runs, ending his 15-game winning streak and marking his
first loss in 26 career home starts.
Few could have seen an outburst like that coming.
“When we went up 1-0 early, I could really
envision it staying 1-0,” said Stricklin, who was ejected in the
Starting in the fifth, Chafin (8-1) retired 12 in
a row until allowing a double with two outs in the top of the
ninth. After a walk, his night was done with four hits, four
runs (two came after he left), two walks and eight strikeouts.
Kevin Lusson hit a three-run homer off reliever
Justin Gill to give the Longhorns life. Texas put runners on
first and third, but Kyle McMillen got Tant Shepherd to pop out
to end the game for his 18th save a day after throwing 2.1
innings in an 11-inning win over Texas State.
The Golden Flashes now await Texas or Texas
State, the winner of which will have to beat Kent State twice to
capture the Regional.
“It’s arguably the biggest win in our program’s
history,” Stricklin said. “Every game from now on will be the
biggest game our program has played in.
“Our guys know it. We’re very honest with our
kids. They read the newspapers. They know that’s a huge win.
They know that we’ve never been to the Super Regionals. And this
team has a chance to do it.”
The Golden Flashes can thank their pitchers for
Chafin entered with a 1.90 ERA and 97 strikeouts
in 80.1 innings. This after missing all of 2010 recovering from
Tommy John surgery.
Stricklin said that Chafin would touch 93 in his
freshman year. After the surgery, the first pitch he threw last
fall in a scrimmage was 95. But unlike most who endure Tommy
John surgery, Stricklin said Chafin’s command and feel got much
better than when he was a freshman laboring with high pitch
“He’s a fierce competitor,” said Stricklin, a
Kent State alum who previously served on Danny Hall’s staff at
Georgia Tech. “He’s got an unbelievable arm, and he’s got a
great feel for all of his pitches, but his best attribute is how
he competes. He really competes.”
Chafin’s not alone. Kyle Hallock (10-4) also
boasts an ERA under 2 and held Texas State in check Friday. And
Sunday starter David Starn enters 9-2 with a 1.95 ERA and 114
strikeouts in 101.1 innings. Overall, the team ERA entering
Regionals was 2.65.
“I think you could argue that we have three
legitimate No. 1 starters,” Stricklin said.
With that stable of arms, Stricklin said the
Golden Flashes entered the weekend brimming with confidence,
despite the fact they hadn’t played well in previous Regionals
at Arizona State and UCLA.
And now, Kent State is a win away from advancing
to the Super Regionals for the first time.
“Right now, we’re playing our best baseball,
there’s no question,” Stricklin said. “We’re playing our best
baseball at the right time.”
(photo courtesy of KSU)