OXFORD, Ohio -- Kent State parlayed three hits and two walks into two runs in the eighth and that was just enough for a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Miami Friday night at McKie Field. The outcome creates a three-way tie between the Golden Flashes, RedHawks and Buffalo atop the Mid-American Conference East Division.
The series opener between the top two teams in the league's preseason poll was exactly as billed as aces Brooks Fiala of Miami and Taylor Williams of Kent State battled late into the contest.
Fiala was cruising along until the eighth, allowing six hits and a walk through seven innings. But a leadoff single and passed ball put a runner on second. After Fiala struck out his fifth batter of the game, pinch hitter Tommy Monnot doubled to left to even the score at 1-1. An infield single and walk loaded the bases, forcing Miami to the bullpen. Seth Varner faced Evan Campbell, who worked the count full, then fouled off three pitches before taking a ball that just missed for the game-winning RBI. Charles Zubrod, the third Miami pitcher, kept the bases loaded by getting an infield pop and fly ball to center.
Miami tried to rally in the eighth off reliever Brian Clark, but missed by the smallest margin. Kevin Bower singled to right with one out and was replaced by pinch runner Marcus Makuch. After the second out of the inning, a failed pickoff attempt moved Makuch to second. Scott Slappey hit a line drive up the middle that was just soft enough for Kent State shortstop Sawyer Polen to make the grab and end the threat.
Williams (6-1) surrendered six hits and the one run, while striking out 11 in seven complete innings. Clark struck out four of the seven batters he faced in the final two innings for his third save of the year. Fiala took the hard-luck loss to fall to 4-4.
The two teams continue their series tomorrow afternoon, with first pitch slated for 3 p.m.