Kent State steamrolls UNC Greensboro

GREENSBORO, N.C.–Coming into the season, we knew Kent State could hit. The Golden Flashes proved it this weekend, turning the UNC Greensboro baseball stadium into a pinball machine with their sweep of the Spartans.

I was not there on Friday, instead choosing to attend the opening of the new Boshamer Stadium and see North Carolina’s Alex White and Dustin Ackley. Meanwhile, 50 miles to the west, Kent State pounded UNCG, 18-2. Kent State righthander Kyle Smith gave up just two hits and one run over five innings, but he walked six, hit two and struck out just one. A scout I talked to said his stuff was as disappointing as his line, with a fastball that was sitting at 81-83 mph.

Saturday was the only close game of the series. Lefthander Jon Pokorny started for Kent State. Pokorny was in the bullpen last year, where he went 2-2, 2.17 with 50 strikeouts over 37 innings. Pokorny did not look comfortable at all while warming up. He was bouncing balls and missed his catcher on several occasions. He settled down a bit during the game, but had underwhelming stuff. He was 86-88 with his fastball and was inconsistent with his 72 mph slider.

The best pitcher I saw on Saturday was Kent State lefthander Andrew Chafin. The freshman was 87-89 with his fastball and showed a good breaking ball. He was very aggressive on the mound and everything was moving. 

With a couple of clutch home runs, Kent State won on Saturday, 9-6 in 11 innings.

The Golden Flashes’ top prospect, righthander Brad Stillings, was on the hill Sunday. Stillings ranked as the 10th-best prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer and was our 27th-best college prospect heading into the year. With an athletic, 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, Stillings has a clean, easy delivery and he throws from a three-quarters arm slot. 

He allowed three runs on five hits over five innings with three walks and three strikeouts. While he looked the best of any Kent State starter, it was not as impressive as some had hoped.

"The biggest disappointment from his bullpen to the mound was that I thought I was going to see a solid-average to a plus sinker, but I didn’t see it in the game," a National League scout said. "The fact that he wasn’t getting a lot of swings and misses was disappointing to me against a team that shouldn’t be getting that many barrels on the ball. I figured he was going to miss more bats up in the zone or he was going to get more ground balls."

Stillings was sitting 91-93 with his fastball, but he wasn’t getting a lot of movement on it and the Greensboro hitters were squaring everything up. The scout also noted that Stillings’ slider was a below-average pitch and that he counted only three changeups.

In Stillings’ defense, it was his first start of the season and it wasn’t exactly a pleasant day to be outside. The sun was out, but it was purely cosmetic. I had four layers on and was still cold. The temperature today was in the low 40s and it felt even colder with the wind blowing.

Stillings left with a cushy 11-3 lead and the Golden Flashes went on to win, 19-6. 

Obviously the middle of their lineup can do some damage. First baseman Greg Rohan was last year’s Mid-American Conference player of the year after hitting .355/.443/.772 with 20 home runs. He’s off to a good start to his senior year by going 10-for-17 with a triple, two home runs and nine RBIs in the opening series.

Left fielder Anthony Gallas is a very physical 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. I actually got a Gabe Kapler body comparison on him, so it’s fitting that he’s from Strongsville, Ohio. As he’s maxed out physically, Gallas is not a good runner or defender, but he can hit. He has a good eye and is very patient at the plate, working his way into hitter’s counts and then hitting the ball hard. Gallas hit a monster, two-out, two-run, game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game and went 5-for-12 on the weekend.

Sophomore Ben Klafczynski also went 5-for-12 while playing right field and DH. He hit two doubles on the weekend and his opposite-field, three-run, home run in the 11th-inning of Saturday’s game was a game-winner.