GARY | Pitching was the biggest concern for Kent State and Kentucky entering the NCAA Gary Regional title game, but both starting pitchers shined on Sunday night.
Fresh off his three-inning relief outing against Valparaiso on Saturday afternoon, Kentucky pitcher Chandler Shepherd was perfect through his first five innings and left with two runners on in the seventh.
Kent State hurler Tyler Skulina pitched seven strong innings in front of a defense that turned two double plays and threw three Kentucky runners out on the bases.
“My approach was to stay within myself and get outs,” Skulina said. “I just wanted to get the job done for my team.”
The starting pitchers were charged with giving up two runs apiece, but it was Kentucky reliever Alex Phillips who gave up a three-run home run to Evan Campbell.
Skulina allowed a RBI double to Jeff Boehm before exiting in the eighth inning and then reliever Casey Wilson gave up a sacrifice fly to Casey Wilson.
“Shepherd pitched last night and he warmed up all night on Friday, so we thought he might be a little flat,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “He was very impressive and Tyler matched him.”
Local production: Mount Carmel product Boehm got Kentucky on the board in the eighth inning with a RBI double that scored J.T. Riddle. The clutch hit was Boehm’s first official at-bat in the NCAA Regional.
Boehm was a pinch-hitter in the 21st inning against Kent State on Friday night, but was hit by a pitch and stranded at second base as the Wildcats failed to extend the game yet again.
Finishing the job: The Golden Flashes had every reason to celebrate their first NCAA regional title in school history. Kent State made it to the championship game last season before falling 9-3 to Texas. Both teams came back the following day and the Longhorns won the Austin Regional with a 5-0 victory over the Golden Flashes.
“It was heartbreaking to be so close and to earn the respect from the fans in Texas, but then not get there,” Stricklin said. “This is just an unbelievable feeling that I can’t even describe.”