Saturday, April 16, 2011

CMU 2, Kent State 1: Walk-off single gives Chippewas win in series opener

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || April 16, 2011

Steve Jaksa said he told him to hit a home run.

“I thought that would be easy,” Jaksa joked.

Jordan Dean said Jaksa told him to take the first pitch.

“Skip wanted me to see one,” Dean said.

And with Friday’s series opener against Mid-American Conference West Division-leading Kent State tied at one in the bottom of the ninth, the sophomore second baseman took two pitches, both sliders, before dropping a two-out fastball into center field and scoring Tyler Hall from third base as Central Michigan walked-off with a 2-1 victory at Theunissen Stadium.

“The coaches told me they were going to start me off with a slider,” Dean said. “I was just looking for anything in the zone, he left a fastball over the plate, I stuck my bat out and got one into center field.”

Dean’s single capped the Chippewas late-inning comeback after Kent State starting pitcher Andrew Chafin stymied the offense for much of the blustery afternoon.

Trailing by a run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, junior outfielder Sam Russell tripled to the wall in right field before Jaksa called on senior infielder Tom Howard to pinch-hit.

“We told him to make sure he was ready,” Jaksa said.

And Howard was ready, laying off a first-pitch slider in the dirt before lining a fastball to left-center, just out of the reach of diving Golden Flashes left-fielder Joe Koch to plate Russell.

“I was sitting fastball,” Howard said. “Got one middle-in and put a good swing on it.”

“He’s been a spark off the bench all season,” Dean said. “He had like 20 guys giving him advice on the way to the plate, but knowing Tommy, he just stayed calm and hit the ball. It was huge.”

Starting pitchers Chafin and Trent Howard set the tone for a pitcher’s duel early, with both left-handers blanking their opponent through the first six innings.

Howard exploded out of the gate, striking out the first nine batters he faced, and finished with 11 strikeouts in seven innings. Chafin, an expected high pick in June’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, struck out 13 in eight innings. Both pitchers allowed a run on four hits.

“You couldn’t ask for more from Trent’s performance,” Jaksa said. “If he gives us that every Friday, we’re in every game.”

Kent State opened the scoring in the seventh, after third baseman Travis Shaw doubled and designated hitter Jason Bagoly singled him home.

CMU responded with a run in the eighth and, after reliever Dietrich Enns stranded a runner on third in the ninth, another run in the final frame to win.

“Across the board, it was a heck of a game played at home,” Jaksa said. “We knew we needed it.”

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