June 1, 2012

Box Score


Kent State Clips Kentucky in 21

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

sean@collegebaseballinsider.com @collbaseball


The average roller coaster lasts a few minutes.


An emotional roller coaster? Try six hours, 37 minutes.


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 baseball ages.


“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 from 2009.


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 win.


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)