GARY, Ind. (AP) — For as long as Friday night's 21-inning marathon between Kent State and Kentucky lasted at the NCAA Gary Regional, the game still fell four innings short of the Texas-Boston College affair in 2009.
Alex Miklos hit a go-ahead RBI triple in the 21st inning as the Golden Flashes outlasted Kentucky 7-6 in the second-longest game in NCAA tournament history.
"That might not have been the longest game in college baseball history, but it was certainly the best baseball game in college baseball history," Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. "There were so many twists and turns. The game was just unbelievable."
The Golden Flashes (42-17) held the lead in the ninth and 18th innings, but the Wildcats (43-17) answered both times to extend it. Kentucky had numerous chances to end the game in extra innings, including having the bases loaded with one out in the 20th, but Kent State relief pitcher Michael Clark was able to get J.T. Riddle to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
"I got the one play that could get us out of that inning," Clark said. "We would throw a punch and then they would throw a punch. It was a great game to be a part of."
Each team used four pitchers that threw at least 60 pitches in the game. Kentucky reliever A.J. Reed started the game as the designated hitter and pitched the final nine innings of the game for the Wildcats. Clark threw the final three and two-thirds innings for Kent State and got the win while recording four strikeouts.
"This type of game is going to help us down the line," Clark said. "We're riding on adrenaline right now, but once we get a meal, if anything is still open, we'll start to get focused on tomorrow's game."
The Golden Flashes were two outs away from the victory in the ninth inning when Kentucky first baseman Luke Maile tied the game 5-5 with an RBI single that scored Austin Cousino. The teams played eight innings of scoreless baseball before Joe Koch gave Kent State a 6-5 lead with an RBI single. Kentucky catcher Michael Williams answered with a run-scoring double in the bottom of the 18th and the teams continued playing.
"It was a great game for the fans, two tremendous efforts out of the bullpen," Kentucky coach Gary Henderson said. "Both sides pitched extremely well after the fourth inning. Forty-runners left on base, it was a very unique game."
Miklos was an unlikely hero for the Golden Flashes as the freshman left fielder entered with the least amount of hits (35) in the starting lineup and with just a .271 batting average. Miklos came to the plate in the 21st inning having gone 1 for 7 and striking out three times. He hit a shot to the center-field wall that drove in Koch with the go-ahead run.
"I was just looking for something to work with," Miklos said. "I'd say it's definitely the biggest hit of my career."