GARY | The only home run of the NCAA Gary Regional turned out to be a game-winner, and a hot-button topic.
Kent State's Evan Campbell pulled a three-run drive to right field that appeared on replay to hit on or near the yellow line on the top of the wall to break a scoreless tie with Kentucky.
The Golden Flashes (44-17) held on to defeat the Wildcats 3-2 and advance to a Superregional to face Oregon.
"To be honest, I didn't think it was gone, the way the ball was carrying," Campbell said. "A lot of balls were hit further that didn't go out. I knew it was past the right fielder. I just didn't know if it had enough. I wasn't sure if it hit the top of the fence or if it hit the seats, the way it bounced off."
Kentucky right fielder Cameron Flynn said he thought the ball hit right on the guard rail and bounced back in. The umpires didn't confer on the play and assistant crew chief Travis Katzenmeier later said he had no reason to overturn the call. WKYT-TV out of Lexington showed footage that indicated the ball either hit the yellow line or the chain link just below it.
"I thought immediately that (two umpires) couldn't miss it," Kentucky coach Gary Henderson said. "My initial thought was (the first-base umpire Ken Durham) couldn't have missed three plays. The law of averages is too staggering. The guy's on the line. He should be able to get (the call)."
Kentucky (45-18) didn't go quietly after the deadlock was broken, immediately rallying against Tyler Skulina. Pinch-hitter Jeff Boehm (Lansing/Mt. Carmel) doubled off the center field wall to score J.T. Riddle, who had singled to start the Wildcats eighth, chasing Kulina. Boehm scored on a Thomas McCarthy fly ball to deep center before Jeff Maile flied out just shy of the wall in center to end the inning.
The Wildcats went 1-2-3 in the ninth against Casey Wilson to end it.
"Our pitching was outstanding, our defense was unbelievable and we got clutch hits to win games," Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. "That's the way we've been playing for six weeks. This will go down as the biggest win in Kent State baseball history. I really can't describe how proud I am..."
Until the eighth, the game seemed to be on course for extra innings, two scary words after what the teams went through Friday night, going 21 frames before the Flashes prevailed.
Both starters faced the minimum through the first three innings, Kentucky's Chandler Shepherd setting down the first nine Kent State hitters, while Skulina's two runners were both erased on the bases.
Kentucky generated the game's first scoring threat in the fourth, getting second and third with one out, but Skulina left them there.
Shepherd stayed perfect until the sixth when Joe Koch lined a clean single to left field.
Campbell's blast, his seventh of the season, came on the first pitch thrown by Kentucky reliever Alex Phillips, who took over for Shepherd (3-1) with two out and two on.
"I'm glad he didn't listen to me," Stricklin said. "He was aggressive. He was looking for a fastball to hit. I was up on the top step blowing. He's had a lot of clutch hits in his career. That's the biggest hit in Kent State baseball history."
The win was Kent's State 20th in a row.
"Last year, we started to shock the world," Campbell said. "We came up a little short and that left a sour taste in our mouth. We definitely came into this one with a chip on our shoulders. We weren't going to let it happen again."