Pitching propels baseball to doubleheader sweep over Kent State

Infielder Justin Simpson slides into third base, April 16, Theunissen Stadium.

Redshirt freshman Andrew Taylor and senior Cam Brown each tossed gems in CMU baseball’s Mid-American Conference doubleheader sweep over Kent State on Saturday at Theunissen Stadium. 

The Chippewas (20-10, 12-3 MAC) defeated the Golden Flashes (13-17, 6-9) 3-1 in game one and 2-1 in game two.

“I thought Kent State pitched really well and I thought our hitters competed well,” said head coach Jordan Bischel. “Thankfully we were able to grind out a few more good at bats.”

CMU starters have now pitched 20 of 21 innings in the series against Kent State so far to clinch the series victory over the Golden Flashes. 

“The whole key is that you have to treat (every game) like the series is starting over,” Bischel said. “If we had lost the first three games this weekend all we’d be trying to do is talk about playing good baseball. I don’t see why we’d do it any differently having won the first three.

“The best find a way to treat the next game the same no matter the previous result. When you do that normally good things happen. 

Game one

With the Chippewas leading 1-0, senior Zach Heeke gave the home team insurance, demolishing a pitch over the center field fence for his first home run of the season and extending the CMU advantage to two runs. 

A Zach Gilles bunt attempt in the third resulted in a throwing error from Kent State pitcher Collin Romel to andance Jakob Marsee from first to third, but Gilles was thrown out at second base. Navarra’s second hit of the game also notched his second RBI, scoring Marsee to give the Chippewas a 3-0 lead after three innings.

The three-run lead was all that Taylor needed. The Caledonia native stranded three base runners and earned three punch outs in the final three innings, surrendering the Golden Flashes first run of the series in the fifth.

Sophomore Ian Leatherman earned his fourth save of the 2021 campaign to seal the Chippewas fifth-straight conference contest.

Navarra finished with two of CMU’s four hits and two RBI’s. Taylor allowed one earned run off seven hits and earned eight strikeouts. 

Game two

A 1-1 pitch to Navarra ricocheted off Kent State catcher Sam Thompson and wound up out of his sight, allowing Mario Camilletti to score from third and give CMU a 1-0 first inning advantage. 

With runners on first and second, Kent State’s Michael McNamara belted a blooper to the right field line to potentially score two runs, but was robbed by a gorgeous diving snag from CMU outfielder Jacob Marsee to record the first out of the inning. Both runners would tag and advance a base with Collin Mathews scoring during the next at-bat to tie the game 1-1.

Navarra belted the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth between the first and second basemen for his first hit of the game and was bunted to second by Chase Rollin on the very next pitch. Heeke drove an 0-2 pitch just out of the reach of Kent State’s McNamara to put runners on second and third. Pinch hitter Colton Coca was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out.

Redshirt freshman Zach Lechnir struck out in his pinch hit appearance for the second out of the inning, but redshirt freshman Justin Simpson watched four pitches miss the strike zone to earn a walk and give the Chippewas a 2-1 lead. Brown froze Kent State’s Sam Thompson to earn a strikeout and seal the doubleheader sweep.

Brown allowed one earned run off four hits with three walks and four strikeouts in his first complete game of the season.

“It’s easy to forget that two years ago (Brown) was a number two (starter) and 10 win pitcher on a team that played awfully deep into a postseason,” Bischel said. “He’s worked so hard for five years, never took time off and just had a bump in the results, but he’s worked just so hard to prepare that it’s fun to see it pay off for him.”

Heeke finished a flawless 3-for-3 at the plate. Gilles added two base knocks and Simpson earned the Chippewas lone RBI.

The Chippewas and Golden Flashes conclude their four-game MAC series at 1 p.m. Sunday.