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Kent State wins MAC Regular Season Title

OXFORD, Ohio – A day after letting a 16-5 lead get away in the ninth, Kent State corrected the wrong with an 8-6 win over Miami Saturday at McKie Field.

The win, combined with Eastern Michigan’s 16-5 loss to Central Michigan, gives Kent State (33-20; 16-8) the Mid-American Conference Title and the first seed in the conference tournament. Miami finishes the season with an 18-36 record, 8-19 in the conference.

It was a tough start for the Flashes against senior starter Chris Niro. On senior day he worked four shutout innings, allowing just a couple of singles to Anthony Gallas. Meanwhile Miami had taken a 3-0 lead thanks to a double by Jordan Petraitis and single from JD Mynheir in the third. That lead became 3-0 on solo homers by Blake Chaffee and Nate Halm in the fourth against Brad Stillings. Otherwise, Stillings pitched well in picking up his third win of the year. He struck out three but walked only one over his six innings.

In the fifth, the Flashes went to work against Niro. He hit Brad Winter to start the inning and was sent home on Ben Klafczynski’s arching homer to right to make it a 3-2 game. Jared Humphreys then singled to left and was sacrificed to second by Cory Hindel. He then moved to third on a Chris Tremblay fly out. With two down, Doug Sanders hit a one-hop smash to second that deflected away from Evan Armitage to tie the game. After Gallas reached on an error to put runners at the corners, Greg Rohan lifted a majestic drive down the left field line that cleared the fence for a three-run homer.

The Rohan homer not only gave Kent State a 6-3 lead, but tied Rohan with Eric O’Brien on the all-time single season home run list with 19. O’Brien hit his 19 in the 2001 season.

After the six-run fifth, Stillings gave way to Steve Ross. Ross allowed a run to make it 6-4 but got a double play to end the threat in the seventh. Kent State got the run back in the eighth when Gallas doubled, was sent to third on a ground out and scored on Jared Bartholomew’s sac fly. It gave the Flashes an 7-4 lead as the game headed for the ninth.

There, Klafczynski was hit by a pitch to start the inning. He eventually found himself at third with two outs and scored on a big hit by Tremblay to make it 8-4. As it turns out, the Flashes would need those runs dearly.

In the bottom of the ninth, and again with one out, Petraitis homered deep to left-center to make it 8-5. The very next batter, Tommy Nurre, hit a solo shot and it was suddenly 8-6. Ross then allowed a double to Mynheir which meant the tying run would bat. After a brief mound conference, Ross calmly got the last two outs without further damage.

Kent State will await word from other games Saturday before it learns its first-round MAC Tournament foe. Scott Stricklin has already said it will be Chris Carpenter in game one of the tournament, regardless of opponent.

“It was just nice to come back after yesterday’s game,” Stricklin said. “That shows a lot about our kids. If you would have told me when we were 0-5 in the conference we would have a chance to win a championship today I would have taken it in a second.”

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