SAN DIEGO — In a battle of teams with high expectations that are off to slow starts, San Diego and Kent State split a doubleheader Saturday at Fowler Park. The Toreros (2-4) took the first game in a battle of the bats, winning 18-11 behind a five-RBI performance by Dillon Haupt and a five-run game from Kris Bryant.
Kent State (1-6) chased Max MacNabb early in the second game and rode the arm of Taylor Williams to a 9-5 victory for its first win of the season after making it to the College World Series last season.
Derek Toadvine hit a grand slam for the Golden Flashes in the first game while Zarley Zalewski and Justin Wagler both hit bombs in the second game. San Diego still has yet to hit a home run the first six games at Fowler Park, though Kris Bryant came just a foot or two short with a long double that bounced off the top of the wall.
The Game Changer:
In the second game, San Diego scored three runs with the help of two errors (see That’s Filthy) to cut Kent State’s lead to 7-5. Taylor Williams, who was better than his 7 IP, 8 H, 5 R (3 ER), 8 K line, stranded a runner at third base to keep the two-run cushion. The Golden Flashes then struck back. They scored a pair of runs to bump up the cushion to four runs, giving them some breathing room and deflating the Toreros, who didn’t have another rally in them on this day.
It was something Kent State had done an inning before, answering a single run from San Diego with a run. The Golden Flashes did the same in the first game, it was just too little, too late. After USD went up 6-1, Kent State scored two. Then they scored four the next inning, but it was in response to the Toreros’ eight-run fifth inning, which busted the game open.
In total, San Diego scored in nine innings Saturday. Kent State answered six times. That’s the sign of a quality team.
Defensive Play: Usually this is the best defensive play of the day, but what was filthy on Saturday was how poor the defenses played. In 18 innings, the teams combined for 10 errors and there were at least two botches that cost teams double plays that weren’t errors. The trouble was spread across the field, but the majority of the mistakes came from shortstops Derek Toadvine (3 errors) and Chris Woolley (2 errors).
San Diego head coach Rich Hill said he is still looking for a shortstop to emerge. Other candidates include junior transfer Logan Davis, who is batting .667 but has committed four errors, and last season’s regular shortstop Andrew Daniel, who had 26 errors last season.
Kent State’s defensive troubles can potentially be traced back to the Flashes inability to practice outside due to the winter weather in Ohio, but the middle infield is where you need to be solid. Both teams will need to improve if they are to live up to their expectations this season.
Best Pitch: Rich Hill said he thought Dylan Covey was the best he’s seen him. Covey bounced back from a bad Opening Night start to pick up the win in the first game. He did a great job of staying on top of the ball and getting a strong downward angle. Covey’s “best pitch”, however, was the combination of his curveball and slider.
Covey said he felt that he could throw either where he wanted all day. And where he wanted was low and away. He pounded the outside corner during his five innings and forced hitters to hammer the ball into the ground. In fact, Covey only allowed one ball to leave the infield on the fly and that was his final pitch when he induced a fly out to end the fifth. Even the three hits Kent State got against him were groundballs that snuck between infielders.
- Derek Toadvine - 1-for-4, 2 R, HR, 5 RBI, HBP
- Justin Wagler - 3-for-5, 2 R, 3B
- Dylan Covey - 5 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
- Dillon Haupt - 2-for-2, R, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 2 HBP
- Dillon Checkal - 3-for-5, 3 R, RBI, BB
- Kris Bryant - 2-for-4, 5 R, 2B, RBI, BB, HBP
- Zarley Zalewski - 2-for-4, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI, BB
- Jason Bagoly - 2-for-5, 3 RBI
- Louie Lechich - 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 4 K; 1-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI
- Chris Woolley - 2-for-3, 2 RBI
The Bottom Line:
There are things to be excited about and things that make you shudder about both of these teams that have high hopes this year.
Dylan Covey in the first game and Taylor Williams performance in the night game, combined with the starting pitching performances of Michael Wagner and Tyler Skulina in Friday night’s 2-1 matchup, give both teams confidence they have two frontline starters that are going to give them a chance to win every time they are on the mound.
However, how are those pitchers going to perform if their defenses don’t make plays behind them. The two teams have combined for 14 errors in three games this series. And neither team has the solid up-the-middle (C, 2B, SS, CF) combo that is always highly coveted.
Both teams expect to play better as they push forward. As Dillon Haupt pointed out after the game, the Toreros started out the opening weekend 1-2 against Sam Houston State and then reeled off a 19-4 record over the next month and a half.
Kent State had similar struggles in 2012 when it went 3-6 against New Mexico State, Pepperdine and Fresno State during a week and a half span on a West Coast swing. The Golden Flashes recovered well enough to finish 47-20 and in Omaha.
While Kent State has been hitting well, it has just been their pitching giving them troubles. Head coach Scott Stricklin said he feels confident in the Skulina/Williams combo at the front of the rotation and his bullpen. They’ve just got to get in the groove and he feels they will be fine. San Diego’s Rich Hill feels the same way about the Toreros’ offense, which entered with a .195 batting average. That’s now up to .250 and should keep rising.
Don’t expect these teams to be held down for long. Both will be competing for conference championships and should be strong NCAA contenders with either capable of making a 2012 Kent State/Stony Brook run.
CORRECTION: San Diego junior Logan Davis was previously identified as a freshman.