The Kent State Golden Flashes baseball team made school history last night by defeated the Oregon Ducks by a score of 3-2 and clinching their NCAA Super Regional final, 2 games to 1. The Flashes advanced to their first ever College World Series at Omaha, Nebraska, and became the first MAC team to advance to the final 8 since Eastern Michigan in 1976.
Kent State has had a thrilling tournament, with numerous close games, but due to their will and determination, they have come through with some huge victories. Prior to the 3 games series with Oregon, The Golden Flashes won a 21-inning nail biter over the Kentucky Wildcats by a score of 7-6. The Flashes defeated Purdue the next game and then squared off with Kentucky one last time. Kent State won the second matchup with the Wildcats by a score of 3-2 and headed out to Eugene, Oregon for a best of 3 series with the Ducks.
The Flashes won the first game against the Ducks by a score of 7-6. After leading by a score of 2-0 heading into the seventh inning of the second game, the Ducks put a 3 spot on the board in the seventh and defeated the Flashes by a score of 3-2. In the pivotal win or go home game 3 matchup, the Flashes scored runs in the first and second innings to put the score at 2-0 in their favor. In similar fashion as the night before, the Ducks struck back and tied the game in the top of the eight by timely hitting from Oregon first baseman Ryon Healy. Healy delivered a one-out single to right field that scored the game’s tying runs. Just as it looked like another come-from-behind victory for the Ducks, the Flashes responded in the bottom of the ninth.
Sophomore second baseman Derek Toadvine drew a lead-off walk against Oregon closer Jimmie Sherfy. Kent center-fielder Evan Campbell sacrifice bunted Toadvine over to second base and in stepped the soon-to-be hero of the game.
Senior shortstop Jimmy Rider holds the all-time hits record for the Mid American Conference, but none of his 350 career hits was as important as the one that sealed the fate for the Golden Flashes. Tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth with a runner in scoring position, Rider delivered the game winning double that dropped between the Oregon left fielder and shortstop. The speedster Toadvine scored from second base and the Flashes stormed the plate in celebration.
The Flashes take their Cinderella story to Omaha and will take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first round of the tournament on Saturday, June 16 at 5 PM/ET on ESPN/ESPN 3. The final 8 teams will play a double elimination tournament with the championship game being a best of 3 series.
- Jeffrey Hammond / 98.5 WNCX