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Opponent Preview: Kent State

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Meet the Golden Flashes... They’re not off to the best start

Kent State v UCLA Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Kent State

Mascot: Golden Flashes | School Location: Kent, OH | Conference: MAC

2019 Record: 0-3 (0-0, T-1st East) | 2018 RPI Rank: 252

2018 Record: 39-18 (19-8*, 1st East) | 2018 RPI Rank: 59

2017 Record: 37-18 (18-6, 1st East) | 2017 RPI Rank: 92

*2018 MAC Tournament Champions


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: TicketReturn.com Field (Myrtle Beach, SC)

Game Time(s): Friday, Feb 22 @ 3:00pm

TV: None :(

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh, GoPack All-Access

Live Stats: Sidearm Stats


Tell me about this team

Let’s take a look at what I said in the 2019 Season Non-Conference Preview about Kent State:

Kent State had a great 2018 season, winning the MAC Regular Season and Tournament Championships. They’ve decided to come out of the gate with an incredibly difficult schedule, with their first five games being against Dallas Baptist, NC State, and Coastal Carolina - all top 25-caliber teams. [Three starters] return to provide what should be a solid defensive infield, but the offense loses five starters from a year ago, including the entire outfield... On the mound, the Golden Flashes lose their entire weekend starting rotation, including Joey Murray, an 8th round MLB Draft pick by the Blue Jays. Several top relievers return, though.

Sooo... not the ideal situation to be coming out of the gates facing the competition that this team has so far and will continue to see this weekend. Maybe next year don’t forget to send your AD a Christmas Card, Jeff Duncan.

Through the team’s opening series sweep (the bad kind of sweep), only four players collected multiple hits, and one of those guys is a freshman who didn’t start until the third game. The starting pitching didn’t look overly great, either, although there were some promising performances out of the bullpen that give the team hope moving forward in that regard. Of course the one starter who did look pretty good is the guy that will be toeing the rubber against the Pack.

Kent State is quietly a damn good baseball program. They haven’t had a losing conference record since 2005 and haven’t had a losing overall record since 1998. The Golden Flashes have made the NCAA Tournament nine times since the start of the 2002 season, and it’s not like all that success has been tied to one coach (although Scott Stricklin, the current Georgia Head Coach, was there - at his alma mater - for the peak of those years from 2005-2013); three different head coaches have been at the helm during this run of sustained success.

All that is basically to say that Kent State is a very good program, and although it’s going to be rough for them in the early going this year with their schedule and relative inexperience, they’ll make a run at another conference championship before all is said and done.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Tuesday: LHP Connor Wollersheim (SR)


Key Players:

Offense

C Michael Turner (SO) - .375 BA, .444 OBP, .625 SLG, 8 AB, 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 R, 0 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 0-0 SB (2018 stats: .280 BA, .370 OBP, .346 SLG, 107 AB, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 15 R, 21 RBI, 14 BB, 16 K, 1-2 SB). Turner splits time behind the plate with SR Pete Schuler. Turner is the better hitter, but Schuler is the better defensive catcher. Turner allowed 3 SB last weekend without throwing out a runner, while Schuler gunned down 2-of-3 would-be base stealers.

SS Josh Hollander (SR) - .300 BA, .364 OBP, .300 SLG, 10 AB, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 1 R, 0 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K, 0-0 SB (2018 stats: .231 BA, .295 OBP, .312 SLG, 173 AB, 4 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 28 R, 26 RBI, 16 BB, 37 K, 3-7 SB). Hollander is not a very good hitter, but is experienced and did tally a trio of hits in the opening series.

3B Pavin Parks (SR) - .091 BA, .167 OBP, .091 SLG, 11 AB, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 R, 0 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, 0-0 SB (2018 stats: .285 BA, .458 OBP, .520 SLG, 179 AB, 11 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 48 R, 52 RBI, 54 BB, 49 K, 5-8 SB). Parks is off to a rough start, but he’s the best returning hitter on this team. He’ll come around. Dude can hit.

OF Collin Mathews (FR) - .400 BA, .400 OBP, 1.000 SLG, 5 AB, 0 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 1 R, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K, 0-1 SB. Matthews received pinch-hit at-bats in each of the first two games vs Dallas Baptist, making the most of the AB in the second game by hitting a 2-run HR. He followed it up by getting a hit in his first collegiate start in the series finale.

Pitching

LHP Connor Wollersheim (SR) - 0-1, 0.00 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, .167 OBA, 33.3 K%, 22.2 BB%, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K (2018 stats: 5-2, 1 SV, 4.02 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .235 OBA, 19.2 K%, 7.9 BB%, 56.0 IP, 47 H, 28 R, 25 ER, 18 BB, 44 K). Was the team’s midweek starter a year ago and put forth the best performance of all their weekend rotation guys last weekend - although the walks were high, and higher than normal for him.

LHP Collin Romel (SO) - Has not pitched yet in 2019 (2018 stats: 0-0, 7 SV, 1.45 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, .206 OBA, 26.7 K%, 10.7 BB%, 18.2 IP, 13 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 8 BB, 20 K). Romel is the closer and top returning bullpen arm for the Golden Flashes. I haven’t been able to find anything on why he didn’t pitch last weekend.

LHP Jack Zimmerman (SO) - 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, .167 OBA, 33.3 K%, 0.0 BB%, 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (2018 stats: 0-1, 0 SV, 2.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .115 OBA, 25.3 K%, 20.6 BB%, 16.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 14 BB, 24 K). Zimmerman pitched well in his season debut as he looks to take a bigger role in the Kent State bullpen this year.

RHP Zach Schultz (JR) - 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, .111 OBA, 22.2 K%, 0.0 BB%, 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (2018 stats: 1-2, 0 SV, 9.69 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, .302 OBA, 18.0 K%, 4.9 BB%, 13.0 IP, 16 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 3 BB, 11 K). A strike-thrower who had a rough sophomore year after a promising freshman year in 2016. They’ll need him to step up this year and pitch some big innings.


Quick! Fun Facts!

Kent State had four players in the Major Leagues last year: LHP Andrew Chafin (Diamondbacks), LHP Eric Lauer (Padres), INF Travis Shaw (Brewers), and RHP Taylor Williams (Brewers).

RS-SO C Kevin Dobos is a North Carolinian, having played his prep baseball at Marvin Ridge HS in Marvin, NC... and according to his bio, Dobos is “creeped out” by his teammate Tyler Drabick. That’s neat, I guess... /shrugs

NC State leads the all-time series with Kent State 9-4.


Prediction

The Wolfpack are rolling out the same weekend rotation from a week ago, which means JR RHP Jason Parker will be getting the start again on the mound. Parker pitched very well against Bucknell (W, 5.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K), showing some great promise in his NC State debut. That same level of performance will go a good ways towards leading the Pack9 to another victory.

Kent State is a team that has a lot to figure out after losing so much from a year ago. They’ll get there this year, but they’ll take some lumps in the meantime. The Wolfpack have more proven experience and more overall talent, which is amplified in these early games. This is a win that will look really good as the season progresses.

Outcome: NC State wins 8-3