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College World Series: Flashes Of Luck, Skill Keep Kent State Alive

Jimmy Rider is my hero.
Jimmy Rider is my hero.

It's always nice to rebound from a rough outing with a similarly good - and lucky - outing the next time. The Flashes showed up to take on #1 seed Florida in the sweltering, ninety-one degree heat of the loser's bracket and managed to score themselves a victory - with some help from the elements. Though not without plenty of drama to close the game out.

The Flashes opened the game with a couple of solid hits to produce a run, after which Florida's starting pitcher, Hudson Randall, was pulled from the game due to heat exhaustion. After Randall was replaced by Jonathon Crawford, the Flashes took to smacking hits back up the middle and ran their lead to 4-1 by the end of the second inning.

Kent State starting pitcher Ryan Bores was nothing spectacular - his off-speed pitches were left hanging regularly, and the Gators kept making solid contact, but right at the Golden Flash defense. It certainly helped that the Florida hitters kept getting up under his pitches and wound up lofting rocket shots into a serious (roughly 15 mph) crosswind that killed everything they hit. Well hit balls kept charging into the outfield, only to peter out and drop into waiting gloves. This was especially true in right field, where there were regularly very hard, loudly hit balls that immediately became long, lazy fly balls.

Ryan Bores was done after the sixth inning (which I doubt had anything to do with him rolling his ankle coming down the dugout stairs while his teammates were hitting), and Ryan Clark proceeded to come in and let the game get interesting. He loaded the bases before he recorded an out, and a double play (as well as the entrance of Casey Wilson and his witness protection beard) helped him exit the top of the seventh with the Flashes still ahead 5-4.

The Other Bullpen Clark, Mike, then came in and made life more entertaining. he issued a five pitch walk to his first hitter in the eighth before ending the inning, then came back out for the ninth and threw six straight balls (only one of which was anywhere close) before getting yanked for Josh Pierce - who threw another two balls to finish off a second walk before finally throwing enough strikes to get a sacrifice bunt for an out. Clark and Pierce combined threw 32 pitches and only 11 strikes.

Florida had the bases loaded with one out, and Pierce kept struggling to the point that he ran the count to 3-0 on a very close strike...then got essentially the exact same pitch called for consecutive strikes to run the count full. The same pitch one last time drew just enough of a swing to get a strikeout on appeal to the third base umpire, and a flyout on the next pitch ended Florida's season and sends Kent State to celebrate, clean off, and wait for the loser of the Arkansas-South Carolina tilt later tonight.

From walking home the tying run to ending the game in four pitches. Whew. Let's not do that again, eh?

I am very impressed with watching Jimmy Rider, I must say. He scored Kent's fifth run by smacking a double (on a near-miss diving catch by Justin Schafer in the outfield), then due to some very heads-up baserunning, came around to score despite the next two hitters striking out. His all-around game has me kind of excited that my own Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him, and I do hope that he signs, whenever it is that he finishes up his run here in Omaha.

Equally impressive was Evan Campbell in center field, who ran all the way back to Kent to make a diving catch withjust enough of the ball in his webbing to lead off the sixth (probably in ESPN's Top 10 plays tonight, keep an eye out).