Lyon’s Three-Run Blast In 10th Helps Kent State Baseball Survive Ball State
Wilson gets Golden Flashes out of bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth to set up extra innings victory.
MUNCIE, Ind. – It was a finish Kent State baseball fans have become quite accustomed to.
Senior catcher David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.) sent a two-out, 0-1 pitch over the right field wall in the top of the 10th inning for a three-run home run, and junior right hander Casey Wilson (Sagamore Hills, Ohio) sat down Ball State in order in the home half to seal a 7-4 triumph for Kent State in the first game of the three-game Mid-American Conference interdivision weekend set Friday (March 30) at Ball Diamond.
"I thought I'd have a chance in the 10th, and I just put a good swing on the pitch," said Lyon. "Each at-bat is different, and you just have to be ready to hit. My approach is to look for a fastball and try to put a barrel on it, and that's what I've been able to do the last couple of years."
The Golden Flashes (12-12, 4-0 MAC) overcame stranding 12 runners on base, several base running and defensive miscues and a 62-minute rain delay to end a two-game losing streak and keep its early stranglehold on first place in the MAC East Division with the victory over the Cardinals (4-17, 1-3 MAC). Kent State is now 1-1 in 2012 in extra-inning affairs and played its second in three games after falling to Toledo, 4-3, Tuesday (March 27) in midweek non-conference action at Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium.
"We did not play well at all and did not execute offensively, but found a way to win in the end, and winning ugly is better than losing pretty, so we'll take it," said eighth-year head coach Scott Stricklin.
Kent State jumped out to a 1-0 advantage in the top of the first when Lyon coaxed a two-out walk and scored on a single back up the middle by junior first baseman George Roberts (Summerhill, Pa.).
Ball State answered back with a run in the second and another in the third to take a 2-1 lead. The Cardinals capitalized on defensive mistakes by the Flashes in the second as sophomore right fielder Sean Godfrey reached on an error by redshirt junior third baseman Nick Hamilton (Avon Lake, Ohio) and then stole second. Freshman shortstop Elbert Devarie drew a walk and Godfrey then stole second. Devarie swiped second, and Lyon made an errant throw trying to throw Godfrey out at third, and Godfrey was able to race home to tie the game. Ball State took the lead in the third when junior center fielder Wes Winkle led off with a double down the left field line and scored one out later when sophomore shortstop T.J. Weir did the same.
Kent State evened the score in the fourth. Freshman third baseman Sawyer Polen (Wooster, Ohio), coming off the bench to relieve Hamilton after he suffered an injury in the second, led off the fourth with a single, moved to third on a double to right center by junior designated hitter Jason Bagoly (Austintown, Ohio) and scored on a fielder's choice that put sophomore second baseman Derek Toadvine (Springfield, Ohio) on to tie the contest at two-all.
The Flashes wrestled the lead back with two runs in the fifth. Senior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) led off the frame with a solo home run over the wall in right center for his first round tripper of the season. Lyon was beaned by a pitch, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored one out later when Polen drove a single through the left side to make it 4-2 in favor of the Blue & Gold.
Ball State got a run back in the home half as sophomore catcher Mitch Overley cracked a leadoff double to left and scored two outs later on a single to center by sophomore first baseman Cody Campbell.
Kent State was unable to add onto its lead in both the sixth and seventh, leaving runners in scoring position, but senior right hander Ryan Mace (Tallmadge, Ohio) came on in relief of senior southpaw starting ace David Starn (Hudson, Ohio) in the sixth and retired six of the seven batters he faced in the sixth and seventh to preserve the lead for the Flashes.
The sky opened up in the top of the eighth to force the Flashes and Cardinals to wait a little over an hour before resuming play. Ball State made it a new ballgame in the home half as Campbell led off with a double to left center. He was replaced on the bases by junior Kirby Campbell, who moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by senior designated hitter Dominick Catanzarite and scored the game's tying run when junior left fielder Blake Beemer lifted a sacrifice fly to left to allow him to tag up and race home.
After the Flashes failed to get anything going offensively in the top of the ninth, it looked as though the Cardinals would make them pay in the bottom of the frame. Overley hit a leadoff double down the right field line and advanced to third on a sac bunt by Winkle. Kent State opted to intentionally walk senior second baseman Mitch Widau and Weir to load the bases, then brought in Wilson to try to put the fire out. Wilson responded with veteran poise, forcing Campbell to ground one over to Polen at third, who made a clean throw to the plate to throw out Overley on his way home. Wilson then got Catanzarite looking to extinguish the threat and send the contest to extras.
"That may have been the best stuff I've seen Casey have since he's been here," said Stricklin. "He was really aggressive, the velocity was up on his fastball and his slider was tight. That was the best I've seen Casey throw in a pressure-packed situation. He's a strike thrower and he's aggressive, and if he throws with that kind of velocity and stuff, he's going to have a whole lot of success the rest of the year."
Kent State rode the momentum of Wilson's heroics in the 10th. Redshirt freshman Blake Bellman (Wooster, Ohio) came off the bench for only his second at-bat of the 2012 season and responded with a pinch-hit leadoff single down the left field line. After Bellman was replaced on the basepaths by fifth-year senior Joe Koch (Austintown, Ohio), Toadvine moved Koch to second with a sacrifice bunt. Koch went to third on a wild pitch one out later, and Rider followed by drawing a walk to put runners on the corners. That set the table for yet another game winning hit for Lyon.
"We gave Blake an opportunity and he was able to get on base," said Stricklin. "We executed well that whole inning. Derek did a nice job of getting the job done and Joe got to third on the wild pitch in the dirt to get to third. Jimmy had a great at-bat to get David up. That's all I was hoping for, was to find a way to get David up, and he hit that ball was well as you can hit one."
Wilson locked up the win by sitting the Cardinals down in order in the home half.
Polen led Kent State at the plate by matching his career best with a 3-for-4 effort with an RBI and a run scored. Toadvine recorded a mult-hit effort for the second game in a row with two singles to go along with an RBI.
Wilson earned the mound victory for the Flashes to improve to 1-0 on the season, striking out two in 1.2 innings of work. Starn fanned six over the first five frames and is now seven strikeouts away from breaking Kent State's career record of 278 set by Dirk Hayhurst (2000-03). Mace struck out three in 3.1 innings of relief work.
Junior right hander Chris Marangon was tagged with the pitching loss for Ball State, falling to 0-3 on the season after surrendering three earned runs on four hits and three walks in four innings of relief of senior right-handed starter Cal Bowling. Bowling gave up four earned runs on 11 hits and two walks.
Kent State goes for its second straight MAC series win to open 2012 conference play when it battles Ball State Saturday (March 31). Junior righty Ryan Bores (Strongsville, Ohio) receives the start on the mound for the Golden Flashes. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.