Kent State CWS Preview

June 14, 2012
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A Look At One of Two 2012 CWS Cinderellas …

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Kent State Golden Flashes

Record: (46-18)

Conference: MAC

Head Coach: Scott Stricklin (8th season)

First Game In Omaha: Saturday, June 16 vs. Arkansas 4 pm CT (ESPN)
Series vs. Arkansas: First Meeting

NCAA Tournament History: 1st CWS appearance, 12th NCAA Tournament appearance

Kent State Info. – KS Tournament Central  |  S-Reg. Notes (w/ PDF) |  Season Stats  |  Roster  |  Record Book  |  Head Coach Scott Stricklin

CWS/NCAA Interactive BracketCWS Printable BracketNCAA 64-Team Printable Bracket

Kent State first baseman George Roberts is the 2012 MAC Player of the Year.

There’s a good chance Kent State shortstop Jimmy Rider doesn’t even know who Opie Taylor is, but that’s ok. Rider was recently compared to the iconic TV character from the 1960’s sitcom The Andy Griffith Show by his head coach Scott Stricklin.

It was Rider’s bloop single to left field Monday night in Eugene that gave Kent State a 3-2 win over Oregon and sent the team to the program’s first College World Series, but it the spirit of Opie Taylor that will make fans fall in love with Rider and his Golden Flashes teammates in Omaha.

“He’s 5’9 and 165 pounds and he’s the all-time hit leader in our conference,” Stricklin beamed of Rider while his team was busy winning the Gary Regional two weeks ago. “He’s the best shortstop I’ve seen all year. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody in the country. He’s that good. He’ll be a Gold Glove winner in college baseball this year. When you look at him he looks like the bat boy.”

Rider exemplifies what is great about college baseball. It’s not the size of the kid in the uniform, but the size of the organ pumping in the middle of his chest that counts when the game is on the line.

A Bunch of Ballplayers

ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk was once told by a fan that he couldn’t possibly be a professional baseball player, because he didn’t look athletic enough. Kruk responded “We’re not athletes, we’re ballplayers.”

Stricklin’s Kent State squad looks very much the part of “athletes”,  but they still don’t fill out their uniforms in the same way as the teams they’ve beaten on the Road to Omaha. To get to the College World Series Rider and his undersized teammates have two wins each over SEC power Kentucky and Oregon from the Pac-12.

“We’ve got good baseball players,” Stricklin responded when I asked him how his Opie-esque group could compete with the Kentuckys of the world while we were in Gary, Ind for the Purdue Regional. “We’ve got a roster full of 34 baseball players. They’re guys that play hard and believe in what we’re going and they’re experienced.”

Experience Matters

While this trip to Omaha is Kent State’s deepest venture into the NCAA Tournament, it is far from its first dance. When the Golden Flashes were sent to the Gary Regional to begin this year’s trek it marked the fourth straight NCAA appearances for the team’s seniors.

Those five seniors – Joe Koch, David Starn, David Lyon, Ryan Mace, and Rider – previously stepped foot on the soil of regionals at Arizona State, UCLA and Texas prior to playing in Gary this year. With games against Kentucky, Purdue and Oregon the Flashes have by far been more experienced than any team they’ve played during their current tournament run.

Oregon’s group of 12 juniors and seniors who played four tournament games at Connecticut in 2010 represented the only players Kent State has gone against in the last two weeks with NCAA Tournament games on their college resumes.

“They’ve got experience (too) and I think that’s a dangerous thing right now,” Stricklin said of his team in Gary. “Our guys are confident with experience and they’re good baseball players.”

The experience and ballplayer ability has helped the Golden Flashes to a 5-1 record in NCAA play over the last two weeks. Five of those games, including four KSU wins, have been decided by a single run.

The experience advantage ends in Omaha though. The other three teams in Kent State’s four-team CWS bracket are SEC big boys South Carolina, Florida and Arkansas.

The Gamecocks have won two straight national championships and bring a record 21-game NCAA Tournament winning streak to TDA, Florida is making its third straight CWS trip after falling to the Gamecocks in last year’s championship series and Arkansas boasts a roster that has just as much NCAA Tourney experience as the Golden Flashes.

Stricklin’s club did well performing in front of crowds in the 4,000-5,000 range in Gary and Eugene, but in addition to the stakes, the crowds and the setting will be considerably larger now in Omaha.

Noteworthy

Kent State is the first MAC team to reach the College World Series since Eastern Michigan in 1976.

Along with Stony Brook the Golden Flashes are also the northern most program to advance to Omaha since Notre Dame in 2002.

Kent State played the second-longest game in NCAA Tournament history when it beat Kentucky 7-6 in 21-innings in the Gary Regional opener on June 1.

The Golden Flashes had their program record 21-game winning streak snapped with their game two Super Regional loss to Oregon. They clinched their CWS berth the next day.

The team’s 46 wins this season are a program record.

Head coach Scott Stricklin has won 313 games in his eight seasons at Kent State for an average of just over 39 wins a year.

Kent State’s most prominent baseball alum is Hall of Fame catcher Thurman Munson.

They’re HERE!!  The Dugout in Omaha has official College World Series gear for each of the eight teams, including Kent State. If you want to be the first kid (no matter what age) on your block to have this year’s official CWS shirts, hats and more (both for individual teams or generic) click the red link and get to The Dugout’s web site!

If you’re going to Omaha for the CWS you can also visit The Dugout. It’s right across the street from the home plate entrance to TD Ameritrade Park.

Projected Lineup

1. (LH) Evan Campbell CF – 6-0/170 … Jr. … Beloit, OH … #14 … 2nd-Team All-MAC
… .327, 40 RBI, 61 Runs, 7 HR, 4 Triples*, 20 Doubles, .506 slug.%, 19 BB, 13 HBP, 36 K, 5-9 SB

2. (RH) Jimmy Rider SS – 5-10/170 … Sr. … Venetia, PA … #1 … 1st-Team All-MAC
… .364, 56 RBI, 66 Runs, 5 HR, 3B, 29 Doubles, .527 slug %, .432 OB%, 33 BB, 3 HBP, 39 K, 3-3 SB
… MAC record holder with 350 career hits (103 in ’12)
… 26th-round MLB draft pick (Pittsburgh)

3. (switch) David Lyon C – 5-11/205 … Sr. … Emporium, PA … #36 … 2nd-Team All-MAC
… .279, 41 RBI, 51 Runs, 10 HR*, 3 Triples, 17 Doubles, .506 slug %, .404 OB%, 50 BB, HBP, 37 K, 3-3 SB
… 34th-round MLB draft pick (Texas)

4. (RH) George Roberts 1B – 6-0/195 … Jr. … Summerhill, PA … #6 … 2012 MAC Player of the Year
… .368*, 64 RBI*, 44 Runs, 8 HR, 3B, 23 Doubles, .561 Slg.%*, 16 BB, 2 HBP, 49 K, 2-3 SB
… 2012 Second Team All-American (Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball magazine)

5. (LH) T.J. Sutton RF – 5-10/180 … So. … Uniontown, OH … #5
… .305, 3o RBI, 32 Runs, 3 HR, 12 Doubles, 18 BB, 5 HBP, 22 K

6. (switch) Nick Hamilton DH – 6-1/190 … Sr./Jr. … Avon Lake, OH … #7
… .347, 35 RBI, HR, 2 Triples, 12 Doubles, 15 BB, 2 HBP, 38 K, 1-2 SB
… 35th-round MLB draft pick (Cleveland)

7. (RH) Sawyer Polen 3B – 6-0/170 … Fr. … Wooster, OH … #24
… .271, 30 RBI, 4 HR, 4 Triples*, 39 Runs, 25 BB, 9 HBP, 55 K, 3-5 SB

8. (RH) Alex Miklos LF – 5-10/185 … Fr. … Grove City, PA … #12
… .260, 21 RBIm 22 Runs, 2 HR, 4 Triples*, 18 BB, 3 HBP, 45 K, 5-7 SB

9. (RH) Derek Toadvine 2B – 5-11/165 … So. … Springfield, OH … #2
… .255, 15 RBI, 35 Runs, 20 BB, HBP, 39 K, 8-11 SB*

* Team-leading totals

Starting Pitching

LHP David Starn – 6-3/190 … Sr. –… Hudson, OH … #37 … 2012 MAC Pitcher of the Year
… (11-3) 2.21 ERA, 114 IP*, 123 K*, 45 BB, .213 opp. BA
… 2012 Second Team All-American (Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball magazine)
… 7th-round MLB draft pick (Atlanta)

RHP Ryan Bores – 6-3/195 …  Jr. … Strongsville, OH … #19 … 2nd-Team All-MAC
… (9-3) 3.35 ERA, 104.2 IP, 67 K, 16 BB, .268 opp. BA
… 27th-round MLB draft pick (Texas)

RHP Tyler Skulina – 6-6/245 … So. … Strongsville, OH … #31 … 2nd-Team All-MAC
… (11-2) 3.63 ERA, 101 .2 IP, 97 K, 41 BB, .235 opp. BA

* Team-leading totals

Bullpen

LHP Brian Clark – 6-3/210 … Fr. … Monroe Falls, OH … #30 … 2nd-Team All-MAC
… (5-0) 1.59 ERA, 20 App., 4 SV, 28.1 IP, 27 K, 9 BB, .160 opp. BA
… Freshman All-American (Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball magazine)

RHP Josh Pierce – 6-1/215  … So./Fr. … Avon, OH … #8
…  (1-0) 2.93 ERA, 19 App., 2 SV, 27.2 IP, 25 K, 17 BB, .242 opp. BA

* Team-leading totals

“A lot of people thought we didn’t have a very good club this year and that we would be an average team in the process of rebuilding.”  – Kent State head coach Scott Stricklin on the success his team has had in 2012.

EUGENE Super Regional
• Gm-1
(Sat.): Kent State 7-9-1 … won at national 5-seed Oregon 6-7-3
… Final Stats: HTML & PDF  |  AP Recap  |  KS Recap  |  ORE Recap  |  Photos (KS Practice Day)
Video Highlights  |  Postgame Video (KS)  |  Postgame Video (ORE)
• Gm-2 (Sun.): at (5) Oregon 3-7-0 … def. Kent State 2-6-2 … series tied
… Final Stats: HTML & PDF  |  AP Recap  |  ORE Recap  |  KS Recap  |  Photos (KS)
Video Highlights  |  Postgame Video (ORE)  |  Postgame Video (KS)
• Gm-3 (Mon.): Kent State (H) 3-8-0 … won at (5) Oregon 2-4-0
… Final Stats: HTML & PDF  |  AP Recap  |  KS Recap  |  ORE Recap
Photos (KS)  |  Video Highlights  |  Postgame Video (KS)  |  Postgame Video (ORE)

2012 CWS Bracket Two

TEAMCONF.RECORDBAR/GMHR/
Sac Bunts
SLG%OBPSB-Att.FLD%ERACGSVKBBOPP.BA
FloridaSEC47-18.2845.975/42.452.36066-92.9792.90318489132.241
South CarolinaSEC45-17.2715.341/62.398.35838-62.9793.06025513191.222
ArkansasSEC44-20.2735.238/41.389.35663-96.9692.90015517207.231
Kent
State
MAC46-18.3026.843/27.442.37952-71.9743.49119525232.246

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