AKRON, Ohio – The baseball gods still seem to be smiling down on Kent State baseball.
A sweep of Akron on Saturday would not have given the Flashes the regular season title as they needed Buffalo, who sat a half game ahead going into the finale, to lose on the road at Bowling Green.
The Bulls had a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. The Falcons tied things at four each and, just as Kent State closer Brian Clark got his second out in the bottom of the ninth in Akron, Bowling Green hit a walk-off triple to beat the Bulls, handing the regular season crown to Kent State.
"It's an incredible turn of events," said head coach Scott Stricklin. "We were routing for Bowling Green, we needed them to win one game. My hat's off to Buffalo, they fought like crazy."
Baseball has now won either the Mid-American Conference regular season or Tournament Championship in 13 of the last 14 years. This regular season title is the fourth consecutive for Kent State and marks the seventh title in the last eight years.
"I'm excited for our kids and excited for our seniors," Stricklin said. "It's their fourth straight championship and I just couldn't be more proud of what we accomplished."
The Golden Flashes did their job, winning 4-1 behind a great starting pitching performance by Casey Wilson to complete the sweep of the Zips.
Wilson threw a no-hitter through 4.1 innings. He totaled six innings on the day without allowing a run and just three hits for the win. Clark pitched a perfect ninth with a strikeout to earn his tenth save of the season.
"He really batted and competed," said Stricklin of his senior starter, "and that's Casey's best attribute, he really competes."
Kent State took a 1-0 lead in the second when George Roberts led off the inning with a double and scored on a single by Alex Miklos. They scored twice more in the next inning after Evan Campbell smacked a two-RBI base hit with bases loaded. Their final run came on a Miklos solo homerun, his second in as many days, in the sixth.
The Golden Flashes now head to Avon looking for their fifth straight MAC Tournament win. They will play the No. 8 seed Central Michigan in a 7:30pm game on Wednesday night.
Kent State finished the regular season winning seven straight games, including two conference series sweeps on the road and a road win over a No. 16-ranked Pittsburgh. They head to post-season play with a 34-21 overall record and a 20-7 conference record. The program has now posted a conference winning percentage above .500 in 23 of the last 24 seasons, putting them in a class of their own.
And Stricklin believes there is still room to improve, as the team continues to strive for perfection on the diamond.
"We still haven't played our best baseball."
If that's the case, it looks like this post-season could be another wild ride.