Kent State baseball team to host Ohio State on Wednesday

Right now, the Kent State baseball team could use a spark.

The Golden Flashes (17-22, 12-14 MAC) managed to simply split last weekend’s series against rival Akron, who was last in the Mid-American Conference, and now must scramble to be part of the MAC 2022 four-team tournament. The Flashes sit in sixth place, two games in the loss column behind fourth-place Ohio University (20-19, 12-12), with 12 league games remaining.

Kent State head coach Jeff Duncan hopes a midweek home battle with Ohio State (13-26), which is struggling even more than his team this season, will help his players come out of their slump .

“Our guys will be really happy to play [Ohio State]”, Duncan said. “It’s good to put them back in the calendar. We’ll go down there next year. It’s always an exciting game for our players and our fans.

The Buckeyes and Flashes meet Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Schoonover Stadium. They last played in the 2017 season at Columbus, a year after Kent State beat Ohio State 8-3 at Schoonover Stadium en route to a 44-win season in 2016.

“It’s going to be a really good vibe on Wednesday,” Duncan said. “When they were here in 2016, it was extremely cold and the place was packed. The weather is looking good on Wednesday, and it’s going to be packed.

Shannon Swaino will be honored with Greg Beals in town

The Buckeyes are coached by Greg Beals, a former standout receiver and assistant coach at Kent State. Beals won 579 games during his 20-year career as head coach at Ball State and Ohio State.

During Beals’ stint as an assistant coach with the Flashes, they had a star receiver in Shannon Swaino, a two-time All-MAC first-team performer in 1995 and 1996 who was drafted by the Montreal Expos. Swaino died in December at the age of 47.

Swaino, a former Manchester high school star, will be honored before the competition begins on Wednesday.

“[Swaino’s] the whole family comes to the game, like 22 of them,” Duncan said. “They’re going to throw out the first pitch. It will make the evening even more special.

Kent State must shut down hard

In order to make the 2022 campaign special, the Flashes are going to need a fantastic end to the regular season.

Kent State seemed to finally be hitting its stride after producing double-digit runs in four straight wins over Miami and Akron, but then dropped the final two games of last weekend’s series against the struggling Zips (13-31, 11-21).

“We came out against the burning guns of Akron. Then we go into game three and we’re up 8-6 and they pull us away, two homers in the ninth, and it kind of turned the whole series upside down,” Duncan said. “We just didn’t play well on Sunday. [a 7-3 loss]. We made three mistakes on the field, leaving a lot of runners on base. It’s really disappointing that in the last eight games we’re 4-4. We just weren’t able to take care of business.

Kent State junior second baseman Mack Timbrook knocks out Miami sophomore Benji Brokemond in last month's game at Kent.

The Flashes were missing three starting infielders in Sunday’s game. Sophomore shortstop Michael McNamara and sophomore third baseman Kyle Jackson have been struggling with injuries, while junior Payton Pennington has had to sit out Sunday’s contest under NCAA rules since that he was ejected from the second game on Saturday.

“From what I understand, McNamara and Jackson are both day to day,” Duncan said. “When they are in our line-up, it stretches our line-up, makes it more difficult. But I don’t know if they will be able to play on Wednesday.

Freshman right-hander Caden Leonard is expected to start on the mound for Kent State. Leonard has allowed one earned run in five innings this season. He is one of many freshmen the Flashes turned to while seeking help in a bullpen that struggled a lot during the MAC game.

Kent State senior pitcher Max Rippl delivers in a game last month against Miami at Schoonover Stadium.

“We’re starting to throw the shots better. Our enclosure has not been good. Our offense is top of the league,” Duncan said. “We have the parts. We just need to close the games, and we haven’t been able to.

Despite their struggles, Kent State remains in the thick of the race to qualify for the MAC Tournament.

“Our mentality now is to find a way to get into the [MAC] tournament and then win it,” Duncan said. “We’re still in this thing.”

Kent State will honor the 2012 College World Series team on Saturday

Wednesday’s battle with the Buckeyes kicks off a big week for the Flashes, who host MAC leader Ball State (29-14, 23-4) this weekend. Games are scheduled for Friday (6 p.m.), Saturday (double header, 1 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.).

On Saturday, Kent State will honor its 2012 team, which qualified for the College World Series and knocked out No. 1 Florida 10 years ago.

“A lot of these guys come back,” Duncan said. “We are going to have a ceremony between games. It will definitely be a fun weekend.

Team KSU 2012 players who plan to attend Saturday’s doubleheader include Jimmy Rider, Derek Toadvine, Cody Koch, TJ Sutton, Nick Hamilton, Joe Koch, Alex Miklos, Evan Campbell, Eli Martin, Jacob Neuschaefer, Dan Slavik, Ryan Bores, Casey Wilson, Sawyer Polen, Jeff Revesz, Brian Clark, Tim Faix, David Lyon, Dan Kopcak, Jason Bagoly and David Starn.

The 2012 KSU players will be introduced on Saturday between games by Ty Linder, the Flashes’ former radio announcer and PA announcer. Linder will also read a message from Scott Stricklin, Kent State head coach from 2005-2013, who now leads the program at No. 22 Georgia.

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