June 1, 2012
Kent State Clips Kentucky in 21
By Sean Ryan
average roller coaster lasts a few minutes.
An emotional roller coaster? Try six hours, 37
That’s how long third-seeded Kent State and
second-seeded Kentucky toiled for 21 innings on the baseball
diamond at the Gary Regional Friday afternoon and night. In the
end, the Golden Flashes claimed a 7-6 win in the second-longest
game in NCAA tournament history.
“Not only was it 21 innings, but to have the
twists and the turns with unbelievable defensive plays made,
pitching on both sides, a lot of chances to win by both teams,”
Kent State coach Scott Stricklin (pictured above) said by phone
about an hour after it was over. “An emotional roller coaster.”
In a game that featured 38 hits, 47 strikeouts
and 43 runners left on base, the Golden Flashes were left
standing, capturing their nation’s best 18th straight win. Alex
Miklos’ second triple scored Joe Koch go-ahead run in the top of
the 21st. And Michael Clark finished off 3.2 scoreless innings
of relief by retiring the Wildcats in a game for the college
“Emotionally, that’s probably the biggest win any
of us have been a part of,” Stricklin said.
Kent State led 5-4 entering the bottom of the
ninth, but Kentucky, as it has done all season, produced
late-inning drama. Luke Maile (3 for 4, 2 RBI) plated the tying
run with a single up the middle.
The teams would go another eight innings without
scratching. Not that they weren’t trying. George Roberts went 5
for 10, and Jimmy Rider 4 for 9 for Kent State. Zac Zellers went
5 for 7 for Kentucky.
Koch’s infield single gave the Golden Flashes a
6-5 lead in the top of the 18th.
Then, the play of the game. With runners on first
and second in the bottom half, the Wildcats’ Michael Williams
drilled a ball to center. Paul McConkey scored the tying run
from second, and A.J. Reed – the eventual losing pitcher who was
brilliant in relief with nine innings, two earned runs and eight
strikeouts – tried to score the winning run from first. The
relay from center fielder Evan Campbell to shortstop Rider to
catcher David Lyon had to be perfect.
“He was dead out,” Stricklin said. “But if the
throw is off-line at all, he’s probably safe.”
The teams played on. And on. And on, challenging
the epic, 25-inning Boston College-Texas NCAA Tournament game
That same night, Kent State’s current seniors
were freshmen playing in the Tempe Regional. They allowed seven
runs in the top of the ninth to Cal Poly but held on for a 10-9
The next year, the Golden Flashes went to the Los
Angeles Regional. And last year, they went to the Austin
Regional, shocking Texas to advance to the Regional Final, where
the Longhorns took two wins from the Flashes to advance.
Friday night was the 10th Regional game for Kent
State’s seniors. That’s called experience.
“I don’t think it’s any question it plays a
factor in our favor,” Stricklin said. “No other team in this
Regional has played in a Regional [with their current players].
Our seniors, it’s their fourth Regional.”
The roller coasters of college baseball – even
the really long ones – aren’t as scary the fourth time around.
(photo courtesy of KSU Media Relations Office)