Kent State-Oregon Super Regional: THE CLEAT STILL FITS!


EUGENE SUPER REGIONAL GAME 3
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Oregon Ducks 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 4 0
Kent State Golden Flashes 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 8 0
WP: Brian Clark (5 - 0)
LP: Jimmie Sherfy (5 - 3)

I don't know about you, but I can't wait for my fingernails to grow back. Looking forward to opening plastic packages and peel off stickers and ... oh right, the game. That was wondrous too. The finish, at least.

The ultimate hit was courtesy of Mr. June, Jimmy Rider who lofted a flair into left field — and the two convergent fielders couldn't get ahold of hit. This scored Derek Toadvine from second and sent them to the MAC's first College World Series since 1976 (EMU) and the state's first taste since 1970 (OHIO). They'll play Arkansas, who knocked off Baylor, on Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Kent State did much better than Game 2 in which they struck out 12 times, only whiffing three times and really laying off those pitches in the dirt. After starting off well with an RBI single by T.J. Sutton in the first, they followed that up with a bases loaded/nobody out situation in the second ... only to score the lone run on a GIDP. They left nine runners on base through the first seven innings, again keeping that door wide open for the Ducks to crack through it. And a Ryon Healy single in the eighth plated their only two runs.

And as much as UO tried to stay patient, the Flashes pitching had much better control, even though starter Tyler Skulina hit two batters and walked three in 6 1/3 innings. The baserunners were not plentiful (except for the eighth) and even the infield was able to turn some double plays.

But that Rider game-winning double is the signature moment thus far. It dropped in the right spot and it was hit off a seemingly unhittable closer. Jimmie Sherfy worked two outs in the eighth with little fuss, thanks to that wicked breaking stuff. His fatal flaw was walking the speedy leadoff battere Derek Toadvine, a slap hitter who did not look like he was going to drive his pitches anywhere. A bunt put him in scoring position and the MAC all-time hit king did the rest.

And I'm not entirely sure how KSU swung the chance to be the home team in Game 3 — I think they coin-flipped it — but man, what a difference.

This is all so damn cool. It breaks a litany of MAC and state streaks, but even if they were only indirectly thinking of representing the conference, they were doing this for themselves and supplanting themselves as a "northern school" with legitimate talent. A school that's produced Thurman Munson, Rich Rollins, Steve Stone, Matt Guerrier, Dustin Hermanson, Andy Sonnanstine and Dirk "Garfoose" Hayhurst has finally made it.

And so has Stony Brook! How weird is this: the America East champions got into the CWS as a 4-seed (Kent State was a 3) and the brackets are aligned such that they may meet in the championship if all goes well.

But really. I hope fingernails grow back in five days.

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