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MACBats roundup: Kent State takes down Ball State in invitational tournament

It's still February, but Florida got to witness some #MACtion on Saturday.

On Saturday, Kent State got the win over Ball State in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational in Winter Haven, Florida Saturday morning, 8-3. Each team would go on to play a second game Saturday, with Ball State defeating Milwaukee 9-3 and Kent State knocking off George Washington 7-4.

Despite what the Golden Flashes' final run total may lead you to believe, the first half of this game was very much a pitchers' duel.

Kent State sophomore Eli Kraus was the first to blink on the mound. With one out in the second inning, Kraus put Cardinals center fielder Matt Eppers on first with a walk. After Kraus induced a groundout from the next hitter, Ball State strung together back-to-back hits, the latter of which was a double by second baseman Ryan Spaulding that brought in Eppers and gave Ball State an early lead.

Meanwhile, it took the Golden Flashes until the sixth inning to figure out Cardinals junior Kevin Marnon, who turned in a strong start for the second straight weekend. After five fruitless innings, the Golden Flashes struck back-to-back one-out doubles with designated hitter Zarley Zalewski and third baseman Dylan Rosa, each of which sent a run home and gave Kent State its first lead of the game.

The two teams traded single runs in their next at-bats, giving the game the appearance of an impending wire job before Kent State opened the floodgates in the eighth inning. First baseman Conner Simonetti got the scoring started with a run-scoring double that ran Cardinals sophomore Mitch Gibson from the game.

From there, Kent State added single runs on a wild pitch and a sac fly before right fielder Luke Burch dealt the final blow, notching a 2-run single that marched in the final runs of the game for the winning side.

Senior Eli Martin picked up the win for Kent State, pitching 3 2/3rd innings of relief and allowing just two runs, one earned, on four hits while striking out four and walking one. Marnon was the hard luck loser for the Cardinals, finishing with three runs allowed, two earned, on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts in six innings.

Shortstop Alex Maloney and first baseman Caleb Stayton each turned in three hit performances for Ball State while collecting an RBI each. Burch, meanwhile, drove in a game-high three runs out of the leadoff spot for Kent State.

Other Saturday MAC finals:

Charlotte 12, Toledo Rockets 4

Charlotte 9, Toledo Rockets (1-5-1) 8

Murray State 15, Northern Illinois Huskies 12

Northern Illinois Huskies (1-6) 12, Murray State 10

UAB 7, Ohio Bobcats (2-3) 2

Middle Tennessee State 3, Western Michigan Broncos (0-5) 2

Seattle 7, Bowling Green Falcons 0

Seattle 9, Bowling Green Falcons (1-4) 3

South Florida 8, Eastern Michigan Eagles (3-5) 4

Grand Canyon 3, Central Michigan Chippewas (0-6) 1

Buffalo Bulls (2-3) 8, Tennessee-Martin 5

Miami Redhawks (2-3) 16, Belmont 14