Bowling Green baseball is becoming synonymous with late-season magic. The Falcons' pursuit of more magic and another Mid-American Conference championship continued over the weekend with a three game series against the Kent State Golden Flashes, leaders of the Eastern Division.
This was their second straight test against the division leader, and once again, the Falcons aced the exam. They dropped the first game of the series but recovered to capture the final two, and they now just two games behind the Flashes for the division lead. Overall, BGSU has now won seven of their last eight games.
Here's a game-by-game recap of how the weekend went down...
Kent State opened the three game series at Steller Field with a hard-fought two-run victory during which momentum shifted several times. Neither starting pitcher threw well, but the Flashes rode an effective long bullpen effort to the victory.
The game remained scoreless until the third inning. In the top half, Kent State loaded the bases with one out after Mike Frank issued a walk, hit a batter and gave up a single. Alex Miklos followed with a base hit to left that scored Zach Beckner with the game's first run. On the next pitch, Justin Wagler bopped a sacrifice fly to center fielder Patrick Lancaster, and Sawyer Polen scored for a 2-0 lead. The Flashes might have been able to tack on more, but Miklos was caught stealing second to end the inning.
Bowling Green evened the score in the bottom half with a pair of two-out runs. Jeremy Shay walked to open the inning, but Eric Lauer struck out both T.J. Losby and Brandon Howard. Fortunately for BGSU, Shay moved to second on a wild pitch during Losby's at-bat, and Lancaster poked a single to right that scored Shay. Lancaster moved up on another wild pitch and then stole third before he trotted home on a Trey Keegan single.
Momentum swung right back to KSU in the fourth inning. Cody Koch led off with a double. Frank was able to induce a fly out to keep Koch on second, but he then served up a home run to T.J. Sutton on a two-strike pitch. Frank retired the next two batters, but the Flashes held a 4-2 lead.
The Falcons stormed right back in their next trip to the plate. Lauer retired the first two batters but then hit Jake Thomas with a pitch on a 3-2 count. Jeremy Shay came up and worked the count in his favor, then launched a game-tying home run over the right-center field fence. BGSU finally took their first lead of the game two innings later, when Losby singled home Thomas with two outs. Thomas had walked, stolen second, then reached third when reliever Dan Kopcak threw wildly when trying to pick him off second.
After giving up a pair of runs in the third and fourth innings, Frank held KSU scoreless for three straight frames. However, he could not hold off the Flashes in the eighth. He retired Polen to start the inning and then got Wagler on a first-pitch fly out after a pair of singles. Unfortunately, his final pitch of the day is one he'd like to have back. Koch ambushed the first pitch he saw in his at-bat and sent it over the left field wall for a 7-5 lead.
Kopcak, Tim Faix and Eric Dorsch retired the last six Bowling Green batters in order to preserve the victory. Kopcak earned the victory, his third, with three innings of relief. He gave up just one unearned run and only one hit. Dorsch picked up his 10th save with a perfect ninth. Frank took the loss for BGSU (3-5) by giving up seven runs, all earned, in 7 2/3 innings.
Koch led the way on offense by going 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs. Sutton was 2-for-4 with two RBI and another run. Both Miklos and Jon Wilson added two hits at the top of the batting order. For BGSU, Shay earned two hits in four at-bats with two RBI and two runs. Lancaster added two more hits for the Falcons.
The second game of the series was once again a back-and-forth affair, but this time Bowling Green came away with the victory. They used a 13-hit attack and took advantage of three Kent State errors to explode for eight runs, including a one-inning six-run outburst.
Cody Koch must really like first pitches, because he ambushed another one in his first at-bat on Saturday. He led off the second inning and took the opening pitch out to right field for a home run and a 1-0 lead. Dating back to his final at-bat on Friday, that means home runs on back-to-back pitches -- a very impressive feat.
BGSU answered back in the bottom of the second with a pair of unearned runs. Brandon Howard walked and stole second with one out. Logan Walker grounded to Sawyer Polen at shortstop for what could have been the second out, but Polen booted the ball for the first KSU error. Howard followed that by stealing third, and that allowed him to score on Jesse Rait's fielder's choice ground out to third. Rait reached as Walker was retired at second, and he advanced on a balk. Rait then scored on a Brian Bien base hit, and the Falcons ended the second with a 2-1 lead.
The Falcons held the lead through the third inning, but Kent State roared back to take the lead with back-to-back two-run frames. In the fourth, Koch walked to open the inning, but Zarley Zalewski made starter Brett Fitzwater pay when he launched a ball for another home run and a 3-2 edge. Koch was again in the middle of the action in the fifth. He doubled after Justin Wagler singled with one out, then T.J. Sutton blasted a triple to bring both men home. Halfway through the game, Kent State led 5-2.
Bowling Green bats owned the bottom of the fifth, and the Falcons took back the lead as a result. Rait, Bien, Jake Thomas and Jeremy Shay grouped together four straight base hits to begin the inning off starter Nick Jensen-Clagg. The Thomas single brought home Rait, and Shay plated Bien.
Still down 5-4, T.J. Losby fouled out deep to right field, and both Thomas and Shay moved up. Trey Keegan struck out for the second out, but Patrick Lancaster tied the game with another single. He then put himself in scoring position by stealing second, and that helped when Howard knocked BGSU's sixth single of the inning. That scored two more runs, and the Falcons took a 7-5 lead. One final run scored in the inning when Howard stole third and took home when third baseman Wagler could not field the ball cleanly on the play.
Kent State managed an unearned run in the seventh, but otherwise, BGSU's bullpen was effective and worked around some ninth inning trouble to preserve the 8-6 win. Devin Daughtery threw 2 1/3 innings of relief for the win, his fourth, and Ethan McKenney struck out two in the ninth for his fourth save. Jensen-Clagg took the loss by allowing eight runs in 4 2/3 innings.
The back-to-back combo of Rait in the #9 spot of the batting order and Bien in the leadoff spot was fantastic. They combined for seven hits in eight at-bats, scored three runs and drove in two. Bien was a perfect 4-for-4. Howard was 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs. Koch led KSU again by posting a 3-for-4 day with three runs and two RBI.
The Bowling Green Falcons committed five errors on Sunday and trailed late, but they responded with a pair of explosive five-run innings. The late rally provided BGSU with a 12-5 win and the series victory over Kent State.
The Falcons opened up scoring in the rubber match with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. Brian Bien walked and stole second, and he scored when Jake Thomas lashed a triple into the right field corner. He trotted home two batters later, as T.J. Losby posted an RBI single. Trey Keegan continued the hit parade with a single, but he was thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit to a double, and that hurt when Patrick Lancaster followed up with a strike out that ended the inning.
Bowling Green kept that lead through the third inning, but the Flashes came back with runs in four straight frames to take a 5-2 lead. Three of the five runs were unearned, as the Falcons had a poor afternoon defensively.
Kent State tied the game in the fourth. Zarley Zalewski singled to lead off the inning, and he took third on a T.J. Sutton double. Jeff Revesz poked a sacrifice fly to center that scored Zalewski and pushed Sutton to third. With two out, Zach Beckner grounded to Bien at shortstop in what should have ended the inning. Bien couldn't handle the grounder, and Sutton scored the tying run. The Flashes took the lead in the next inning when back-to-back doubles by Alex Miklos and Cody Koch plated a run.
Beckner reached on another two-out error in the sixth, this time by third baseman Brandon Howard. Once again, the mistake came home to roost as Beckner went to second on a balk and then scored when Sawyer Polen singled. In the seventh, Losby booted a play at first that allowed Miklos to reach to open the inning. He scored KSU's ffith run after a Koch double and a Zalewski ground out.
The Falcons finally resumed their offensive attack and batted around in back-to-back innings. The first five batters in the seventh reached base thanks to a pair of singles, two walks, and a hit batter. A single by Logan Walker scored Trey Keegan, and Jesse Rait followed with a walk that plated Lancaster. Brandon Howard scored on a grounder by Thomas. The play on that grounder was at second, and Rait made it safely on an error by Beckner. That mistake proved pivotal, as Jeremy Shay laced a single to center that scored two runs, including Rait. BGSU took a 7-5 lead into the eighth.
Ben Singer retired the Flashes in order in the eighth, and the Falcons immediately went back to work on offense. Lancaster and Howard both worked walks to begin the inning, and after Walker moved them into scoring position with an infield hit, Rait singled them home for a 9-5 lead. Bien sacrificed the two runners to second and third, and Thomas singled home Walker on the next pitch. A fielder's choice grounder by Shay and a single by Losby sent the final two runs across, and BGSU took a 12-5 advantage to the ninth. Singer induced three fly outs in the final frame to seal the win.
Andrew Lacinak pitched well for the Falcons but did not pick up the win. He allowed five runs but only two earned in six innings. Singer retired nine of the 10 batters he faced over three innings and did not allow a hit, and he improved to 3-1 with the victory. KSU's Brian Clark allowed four runs and five hits in six innings, but reliever John Fasola took the loss. Fasola faced three batters in the seventh. All three reached base and ultimately scored. Including Clark, who faced two batters, KSU needed five pitchers to get through the seventh inning.
Eight of BGSU's 11 hits came from the second through fifth spots in the batting order. Thomas had three hits, while Losby and Keegan added two each. Thomas and Shay drove in three runs apiece and Losby added two more RBI. The sixth through ninth batters in the order each scored two runs. KSU's Cody Koch continued his hot play with three hits in five at-bats.
BGSU is now 10-8 in the MAC and 19-20 overall. However, after starting 6-16, they've won 13 of their last 17 games and seven of their last eight. The Falcons are tied for fifth place in the MAC and third place in the Eastern Division with Miami. Both the Falcons and RedHawks are two games ahead of Toledo and Northern Illinois, who are tied for eighth and ninth place. Only the top eight teams make it to the MAC Tournament. BGSU returns to the field next weekend at Miami in a huge series after playing a midweek game at Eastern Michigan.
Kent State drops to 12-6 in the MAC and 28-15 overall. The Flashes maintain their lead in the MAC East by a half-game over Buffalo and are tied with Central Michigan for the second-best record in the MAC. KSU plays midweek games at Penn State and at home against Youngstown State. Their next MAC games are next weekend at home against Northern Illinois.