The Falcon baseball team lost two of three games against the Kent State Golden Flashes, falling 18-9 on Friday afternoon and 4-3 in the first game of a Saturday afternoon doubleheader before claiming the second game of the doubleheader 6-2.
The first game of the series Friday saw Kent State take the lead in the second inning, with senior shortstop Pavin Parks hitting a solo home run. He was followed up by sophomore first baseman Alex Ronnebaum getting a 2 RBI double to make it a 3-0 game.
However, the Falcons fought back in the bottom of the inning, with freshman catcher Tyler Haas taking advantage of an error to bring in two runs. The team then tied the game back up in the third as junior center fielder Jake Wilson drove in a run with an RBI groundout.
Kent State responded in the fifth as senior third baseman Kian O’Brien tagged a 2 RBI single. However, the Falcons offense would explode for six runs in the sixth. Haas came through with an RBI single and was followed by another RBI single courtesy of senior right fielder RJ Williams, which also brought in another run on an error to give the team the lead. Senior second baseman Riley Minorik added another with an RBI sacrifice bunt and Wilson swatted an RBI single for an 8-5 advantage for the Falcons.
Kent State came back in the seventh, retaking the lead with sophomore catcher Michael Turner knocking in a grand slam homer to put Kent State back in front 9-8. Freshman left fielder Collin Mathews doubled the lead on an RBI single for a 10-8 lead. They would pull away in the late innings, scoring two more in the eighth and six in the ninth. The Falcons added a run in the ninth on an RBI single from senior first baseman Anthony Smith, but it would be too late, as Kent State claimed the 18-9 victory.
“We were down multiple runs on two occasions, and our guys battled back against a really good pitcher to take a three-run lead,” Falcons head coach Danny Schmitz said. “That seventh inning was the big inning. We just scored five runs in the sixth, and they came back the next half inning and got them all back. That's a huge momentum swing late in the game, and it's tough to overcome that.”
Kent State sophomore relief pitcher Tyler Drabick took the win, going two and two-thirds innings while allowing no earned runs on four hits and a walk. Falcons senior reliever Daniel Buratto took the loss, allowing three earned runs on one hit and a pair of walks over three batters faced.
Sunday’s game was pushed back to Saturday for a doubleheader due to impending rain. The first game of the doubleheader got started with Kent State taking the lead as Turner got an RBI groundout for a 1-0 advantage in the first inning. Kent State again doubled the advantage as O’Brien added an RBI single, but the Falcons quickly got the run back as Minorik grabbed an RBI single in the bottom of the inning.
However, Kent State returned in the fifth with a solo homer courtesy of freshman designated hitter Justin Kirby, but the Falcons again came back in the bottom of the inning with senior designated hitter Gama Martinez scoring on a throwing error to make it 3-2. Kent State restored the advantage in the seventh with another O’Brien RBI single, and while Williams added an RBI single for the Falcons in the bottom of the inning, they would be unable to complete the comeback as Kent State took the 4-3 victory to win the series.
“We pecked away … but unfortunately, we couldn’t get that tying run or the go-ahead run,” Schmitz said. “I thought it was a very good college ball game and I thought the effort was very good from both sides.”
Junior pitcher John Matthews earned the win for Kent State, going four and two-thirds innings in relief while giving up one earned run on one hit and one walk, while Falcons freshman pitcher Tyler Hays was hit with the loss, giving up two earned runs on six hits and a pair of walks over six innings pitched.
In the second game of the doubleheader, the Falcons offense got on the board first with sophomore first baseman Adam Furnas hitting an RBI sacrifice fly and freshman third baseman Ryan Johnston adding an RBI double for a 2-0 second inning lead. The team then doubled the lead in the third inning with senior shortstop Neil Lambert getting an RBI fielder’s choice and sophomore left fielder Dylan Dohanos scoring a run on an error.
The team tacked on two more runs with a 2 RBI single from Williams in the sixth, but Kent State had some momentum late as sophomore catcher Kevin Dobos and Turner each had an RBI double in the seventh and eighth innings respectively. It wouldn’t be enough, though, as the Falcons took the 6-2 win to finish out their final home series of the season.
“We put some pressure on their defense, they made some mistakes and we capitalized on that,” Schmitz said. “Hopefully that’ll give us a confidence booster going into the last week of the season.”
The series was also the final home matchup for 11 senior Falcon players, with Williams, designated hitter Brad Croy, Jeff Scott, Lambert, Martinez, Cam Daugherty, Minorik, Ty Suntken, Joe McGuinness, Buratto and Smith all graduating at the conclusion of the season. The first game of the doubleheader also featured a starting batting order made up entirely of senior players.
“I told the assistant coaches to make the lineups, so I have to give (hitting coach) Ryan Shay credit for that one,” Schmitz said. “That was his idea and I thought it was a nice touch to senior day.”
The team will next play on Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons on the road against the Northern Illinois Huskies to close out the regular season.