Oh My, Omaha! No. 8 Kent State Baseball Opens 2012 College World Series Action Against No. 6 Arkansas
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PREVIEWING 2012 COLLEGE WORLD SERIES
vs. No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks (44-20) • Bracket 2 Opening Game • Double Elimination
June 16, 2012
TD Ameritrade Park
Follow on Twitter @FlashesBaseball
--Saturday, June 16 • 5 p.m. ET (4 p.m. CT)
PROBABLE PITCHING STARTERS
KENT STATE: #37 David Starn (Sr., LHP, Hudson, Ohio) 11-3, 2.21 ERA, 123 SO, 45 BB, 17 GS, 114.0 IP
ARKANSAS: #24 DJ Baxendale (Jr., RHP, Jacksonville, Ark.) 7-5, 3.18 ERA, 89 SO, 23 BB, 18 GS, 96.1 IP
The NCAA's tagline for the 2012 College World Series is 'History Happens Here.' It's certainly an appropriate slogan for the No. 8 Kent State baseball team, as the Golden Flashes take aim at capturing the program's first national title in their first CWS appearance.
Kent State’s journey to NCAA supremacy begins with a showdown against No. 6 Arkansas Saturday (June 16) in a nationally-televised matchup on ESPN. First pitch of the opening game of Bracket 2 of the 2012 College World Series is slated for 5 p.m. ET (4 p.m. CT). Kent State and Arkansas are paired in the same bracket as No. 1 Florida (47-18) and No. 2 South Carolina (45-17). Florida and South Carolina will square off Saturday at 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT). The winners of the two Bracket 2 games will meet Monday (June 18) at 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT) while the losers will play an elimination game at 5 p.m. ET (4 p.m. CT).
It has been quite a remarkable journey for a Kent State squad that lost five players to the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft and was not even a unanimous pick to win the Mid-American Conference in 2012. The Golden Flashes fought past the obstacles and doubts, though, to post a school-record 46 wins and reach the NCAA College World Series for the first time in program history.
Ranked No. 8 in the nation according to Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, the Golden Flashes have won 38 of its last 46 games – including 25 of 27. The Flashes won a wire-to-wire regular season title and followed it up by going a perfect 4-0 in the MAC Tournament to clinch their fourth straight conference tournament crown.
Kent State, the NCAA Gary Regional's No. 3 seed, advanced to its second straight NCAA Regional winner’s bracket final by outlasting Kentucky, 7-6, in 21 innings in the regional opener on June 1 – the second-longest game in the history of the NCAA Tournament – then knocked off the regional host and top seed, then-No. 16 Purdue, 7-3, the following day. Kent State clinched a dramatic 3-2 NCAA Championship Gary Regional title over then-No. 13 Kentucky on June 3 at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind., marking Kent State’s first regional championship.
The Golden Flashes then traveled 2,492 miles to the Pacific Northwest to battle then-No. 10 Oregon in the best-of-three NCAA Eugene Super Regional. Junior center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio) made a leaping, turn-around catch in deep left-center field to bail Kent State out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth inning and secure a heart-stopping 7-6 win over Oregon in the opening game of the series last Saturday (June 9). The Ducks rallied from a 2-0 deficit the following night by plating three runs in the seventh inning to overcome the Flashes and force a winner-take-all game three. History repeated itself Monday (June 11) as Kent State's 2-0 lead evaporated in the eighth inning, but a bottom-of-the-ninth, one-out bloop single by senior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) scored sophomore second baseman Derek Toadvine (Springfield, Ohio) from second and sent the Golden Flashes to Omaha for the first time in program history.
The Golden Flashes are the fourth MAC team to play in the College World Series. Western Michigan made six appearances from 1952-1963 and finished as runner-up in 1955. Ohio made one appearance in 1970, and Eastern Michigan made trips to Omaha in 1975 and 1976, when they finished second.
Conference roots run deep with the NCAA postseason as the College World Series debuted on the campus of Western Michigan in 1947 and 1948.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION:
No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks (44-20)
Arkansas finished second in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a 16-14 mark in league play and went two-and-out at the 2012 SEC Tournament but rolled through the NCAA Houston Regional with a perfect 3-0 mark after earning a regional No. 2 seed. The Razorbacks won the 2012 Waco Super Regional over then-No. 4 Baylor courtesy of a 1-0 win in 10 innings Monday (June 11) in the winner-take-all third game of the series.
10th-year head coach Dave Van Horn has Arkansas back in the College World Series for the third time during his tenure. The Razorbacks are making their seventh appearance in program history.
Kent State and Arkansas will be squaring off for the first time Saturday, but the Golden Flashes are no strangers to the SEC in NCAA Tournament play. Kent State is 3-2 all-time against SEC foes in the NCAA Tournament -- including two victories over Kentucky in the 2012 NCAA Gary Regional.
Despite never facing each other, Kent State and Arkansas have closer ties on the baseball diamond than one may realize.
Kent State eighth-year head coach Scott Stricklin and Arkansas 10th-year head coach Dave Von Horn served as assistant coaches together under Missouri head coach Tim Jamieson on the 2011 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team last summer. Kent State's then-junior catcher David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.) represented his country under Stricklin and Van Horn alongside then-sophomore right-handed pitcher DJ Baxendale, then-freshman infielder Dominic Ficociello and then-sophomore infielder Matt Reynolds of Arkansas. The group helped the USA win three of five games against Japan.
Baxendale is expected to get the start on the hill Saturday for Arkansas.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Although the Golden Flashes are making their first College World Series appearance in program history in 2012, Kent State is no stranger to success on the baseball diamond.
The foundation of the recent run of success for the Kent State baseball program was laid by former head coach Danny Hall, who is now the skipper at Georgia Tech. Hall, who manged the Flashes from 1988-93, led Kent State to back-to-back in NCAA Regional berths in his final two seasons at the help, breaking a 28-year postseason drought for Kent State. Hall was named MAC Coach of the Year in 1992 and '93.
Rick Rembielak, who was an assistant on Hall's staff and is now the head coach at Akron, took over as Kent State's skipper in 1994 and piled up the most victories (373) in program history over 11 seasons as the head coach. He guided the Golden Flashes to four NCAA postseason appearances. Rembielak was named MAC Coach of the Year in 1996, 2000 and '03.
Scott Stricklin, who is in his eighth season as head coach of the Golden Flashes, lettered three seasons as a catcher at Kent State, earning All-MAC honors in 1992 and ‘93 under Hall and Rembielak. Stricklin returned to Kent State as head coach in 2005 after serving the previous three seasons as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Georgia Tech under Hall, helping lead the Yellow Jackets to a College World Series appearance in 2002.
Since 1992, Kent State baseball owns a record of 772-442 (.636 winning percentage), has won at least 40 games in a season seven times and has qualified for the NCAA postseason 11 times.
Kent State entered the 2012 NCAA Tournament sporting a 9-22 all-time record in national postseason play. The Golden Flashes enter the 2012 NCAA College World Series with a 5-1 mark in the NCAA Tournament.
Kent State is hitting .255 in NCAA Tournament play with 29 runs on 62 hits - including 13 doubles, three triples and two home runs. Senior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) is batting a team-best .387 with a team-high 12 hits - including three doubles - to go along with seven RBIs. Junior first baseman George Roberts (Summerhill, Pa.) is hitting at a .367 clip with 11 hits - including five doubles and a home run - to go along with seven RBIs. Sophomore right fielder T.J. Sutton (Uniontown, Ohio) is batting .304 with seven hits - including three doubles.
Sophomore right-handed starting pitcher Tyler Skulina (Strongsville, Ohio) sports a 1-0 record in two starts with a 1.42 ERA and nine strikeouts. Junior right-handed reliever Casey Wilson (Sagamore Hills, Ohio) and redshirt freshman righty Josh Pierce (Avon, Ohio) have each recorded a save.
At this point in the college baseball season, it seems that every team competing in the College World Series has some sort of gimmick or saying that the squad latches onto and uses as their rallying cry.
For the Kent State Golden Flashes, that saying is 'Bite Down,' which is just a fancier way of saying, 'Play Hard, Be Tough, Play Flashes Baseball.' Credit of the invention of the 'Bite Down' slogan goes to former Kent State standouts Jared Humphreys and Anthony Gallas. Gallas is now a member of the Cleveland Indians minor league system.
With the debut of the program's @FlashesBaseball Twitter account, #BiteDown has been adopted as the rallying cry of the fans of the Blue & Gold. Since the 2012 NCAA Tournament began, the twitter account has exploded from just over 650 followers to nearly 2,800 at the start of the College World Series.
Kent State will be sporting two of the most popular uniform looks in college baseball at the College World Series.
The Golden Flashes will sport the 'throwback greys' for Saturday's Bracket 2 opener against Arkansas, then will wear their cream-colored home uniform for Monday's game.
IT’S A FACT: CLASS OF THE MAC
As Kent State has now won its 11th conference regular season title and 10th tournament title in its 60th season of MAC play in baseball, it’s not a stretch to boast that the Golden Flashes are the conference’s premier program.
With an all-time conference record of 658-527-2 (.554 winning percentage), Kent State has won 11 MAC Regular Season championships (1964, ‘92, ‘93, ‘94, ‘96, 2000, ‘03, ‘06, ‘08, ‘11, ‘12) and 10 MAC Tournament titles (‘92, ‘93, ‘01, ‘02, ‘04, ‘07, ‘09, ‘10, ‘11, ‘12) and has won at least 16 conference games 25 times in the last 27 seasons. The 2012 squad tied the 1992 team for the most conference wins in program history with 24. In the last two MAC Tournaments, Kent State has outscored the opposition by a staggering 62-15 margin.
Kent State also finished the season as the conference’s top team statistically in hitting, pitching and fielding.
After posting an 21-5 MAC record winning both the regular season and tournament title in ‘11, Kent State was tabbed to win both championships again this season in the preseason coaches poll.
AMONG THE BEST STREAKS IN SPORTS
During the run to the 2012 NCAA College World Series, Kent State put together a 21-game winning streak that began with a 16-5 win over MAC West Division foe Western Michigan on April 27 and ended with a 3-2 loss at Oregon last Saturday (June 10) in the second game of the NCAA Eugene Super Regional. Kent State went a perfect 14-0 during the month of May. The run rivaled some of the best streaks in team sports.
- The Oakland A’s set Major League Baseball’s longest winning streak (20) in 2002.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins hold the longest winning streak in NHL history at 17 games (1992-93).
- The New England Patriots hold the longest winning streak in NFL history (21), spanning the 2003-04 seasons.
- The recently ended 20-game winning streak by the San Antonio Spurs tied for the third longest in NBA history.
- Kentucky carried the longest streak in men’s basketball (24) this season.
- The longest winning streak in NCAA softball this year were shared by Louisville and Lousiana (28).
- The longest current winning streak in Division I (FBS) football is held by Northern Illinois (9).
INSIDE THE STREAK
During Kent State’s 21-game winning streak, the Golden Flashes hit .300 as a team with 233 hits - including 46 doubles, nine triples and 16 home runs. Kent State’s pitching staff posted a team ERA of 2.10 and limited the opposition to 57 runs - 47 of them earned - on 165 hits and 60 walks while tallying 163 strikeouts.
Junior first baseman George Roberts (Summerhill, Pa.) - the 2012 MAC Player of the Year and 2012 Louisville Slugger Second Team All-America honoree leads Kent State’s offense during the streak with a .396 batting average and a team-high 36 hits - including 12 doubles, a triple and a home run - to go along with a team-high 28 RBIs. Senior shortstop and First Team All-MAC pick Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa.) is hitting .380 with 35 hits over the last 20 games - including eight doubles, a triple and two runs - to go along with 25 RBIs. Freshman third baseman Sawyer Polen (Wooster, Ohio) has also been hot during the streak, batting .304 with 21 hits - including four doubles, three triples and a home run - to go along with 12 RBIs.
Kent State’s pitching staff was been lights out during the 21-game winning streak. Senior southpaw David Starn (Hudson, Ohio) - the 2012 MAC Pitcher of the Year and 2012 Louisville Slugger Second Team All-America honoree - was 7-0 with a 2.19 ERA and 48 strikeouts. Junior right-handed starter and Second Team All-MAC selection Ryan Bores (Strongsville, Ohio) is 5-0 with a 2.72 ERA, striking out 17 while walking just three during the streak. Sophomore right-handed starter and 2012 Second Team All-MAC pick Tyler Skulina (Strongsville, Ohio) is 6-0 with a 2.66 ERA, striking out 34 while walking just 10.
Out of the bullpen, junior right-handed closer Casey Wilson (Sagamore Hills, Ohio) collected three saves in nine appearances while 2012 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America lefty Brian Clark (Munroe Falls, Ohio) has added two saves and senior righty Ryan Mace (Tallmadge, Ohio) has posted two more.
Kent State won five one-run games during the streak.
With a win over Oregon in the 2012 Super Regional opener Saturday, the Flashes will match the 1992 and 2011 squads for the most victories in a single season in Kent State history with 45.
21 INNINGS OF MADNESS
The most memorable game of Kent State’s run to the 2012 NCAA Super Regional was the wild 21-inning victory over then-No. 13 Kentucky last Friday (June 1) in the opening game of the 2012 NCAA Gary Regional.
Six hours and 37 minutes after Kentucky junior left-handed starting pitcher Taylor Rogers got Kent State junior center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio) to hit a first-pitch ground out to second in the opening game of the 2012 NCAA Championship Gary Regional at U.S. Steel Yard, Kent State redshirt sophomore left-handed reliever Michael Clark (Akron, Ohio) struck out Kentucky senior infielder Thomas McCarthy to close the epic book on a 7-6, 21-inning triumph at 10:38 p.m. for Kent State, with the winning margin provided by an RBI triple to deep center field by freshman left fielder Alex Miklos (Grove City, Pa.) in the top half of the 21st frame in front of a delirious 5,016 in Gary.
The contest featured 678 pitches by five pitchers from each team, 43 runners left on base and 47 strikeouts and marked the second-longest NCAA Tournament contest in the history of the event. The only game to go longer was the 2009 25-inning, 3-2 Texas victory over Boston College at the Austin Regional.
With the contest knotted at six-all going into the 21st inning, fifth-year senior left fielder Joe Koch (Uniontown, Ohio) got Kent State’s final push started by legging out a swinging bunt single to second off of Kentucky freshman southpaw reliever A.J. Reed. Koch advanced to second when redshirt junior designated hitter Nick Hamilton (Avon Lake, Ohio) laid down a sacrifice bunt, setting the table for Miklos, who came to the plate having gone 1 for 7 and striking out three times. The freshman responded by sending a 1-0 triple into deeper center, allowing Koch to scamper home and give Kent State a 7-6 lead.
Clark opened the bottom of the 21st by striking out Kentucky redshirt sophomore pinch hitter Michael Thomas for the first out. Junior left fielder Zac Zellers countered with a single to right, and freshman pinch hitter Jeff Boehm followed by getting beaned by a pitch to put two on with one out for the Wildcats. Clark forced freshman center fielder Austin Cousino to ground out to second for the second out, but Zellers and Boehm each moved up 90 feet on the play to put the winning run on second for Kentucky. Clark dug deep, though, getting McCarthy swinging to end the marathon game and send the Golden Flashes to the winner’s bracket final of a NCAA Regional for the second straight year. Kent State bested Texas State, 4-2, in 12 innings in the opening game of 2011 NCAA Championship Austin Regional last year.
CAMPBELL’S THREE-RUN BOMB SENDS KENT STATE INTO SUPER STATUS
When then-junior catcher David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.) crushed a grand slam on a 1-2 count that sailed over the left field wall and into the Kent State bullpen to give Kent State a 5-2 lead and helped push the Golden Flashes to a 7-5 win over then-No. 5 Texas on June 4, 2011, at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin, Texas, it was hard to imagine a Golden Flash ever hitting a bigger home run.
Junior center fielder Evan Campbell (Beloit, Ohio), topped Lyon Sunday (June 3), hitting a three-run home run in the top of the eighth inning to break a scoreless tie to propel Kent State to the program’s first NCAA Regional Championship and a berth in the national tournament’s round of 16 known as the Super Regionals with a 3-2 victory in the Gary Regional Final over then-No. 13 Kentucky.
A Second Team All-MAC pick in 2012, Campbell is hitting .327 with 87 hits - including 20 doubles, a team-high four triples and seven home runs - to go along with 40 RBIs.
GREATEST SHOW ON DIRT
Kent State’s offense is among the most prolific in the nation in 2012, leading the country in doubles (161) and ranking third in hits (711), eighth in runs (438), 19th in slugging percentage (.442) and 23rd in batting average (.302). The Golden Flashes also rank second in the country in sacrifice flies (44).
LEADING THE WAY
Kent State eighth-year head coach Scott Stricklin earned Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year laurels for the second year in a row and third time in his career and has guided the Golden Flashes to their first NCAA College World Series berth He was also named the conference’s skipper of the year following his second season at the helm of the Golden Flashes in 2006. His selection marks the seventh time a Kent State head coach has earned the conference’s top honor. Stricklin guided Kent State to its second straight MAC regular season championship as the Golden Flashes matched Kent State’s 1992 championship team for the most MAC victories in a single season with 24. The No. 1-seeded Flashes entered the 2012 MAC Tournament having won eight of its nine MAC series in 2012 and sweeping seven of them to complete a wire-to-wire championship. Kent State then went a perfect 4-0 in the conference tournament to capture its fourth straight MAC Tournament crown. Stricklin earned his 300th career coaching victory in a 10-4 triumph over MAC East Division rival Miami on May 13.
With 313 coaching wins, Stricklin, who has led Kent State to four MAC regular season titles, five conference tournament titles and five NCAA berths, became the second skipper in school history to reach the 300-win milestone, joining Rick Rembielak (373 wins; 1994-2004). The 2011 American Baseball Coaches Association Regional Coach of the Year lettered three seasons as a catcher at Kent State, earning All-MAC honors in 1992 and ‘93. He graduated magna cum laude from Kent State in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.
A LOOK AT THE COACHING STAFF
Kent State’s success under eighth-year head coach Scott Stricklin can largely be attributed to the continuity and talent on his coaching staff.
Mike Birkbeck is in his 15th season as the associate head coach/pitching coach for the Golden Flashes. He has mentored four MAC Pitcher of the Year picks and 25 MLB First-Year Player Draft Selections - including 12 drafted in the first ten rounds. Prior to coming to Kent State, Birkbeck spent 14 years playing professionally, his last 10 seasons coming at the AAA and Major-League level. He also spent parts of two seasons playing in Japan with the Yokohama Baystars. Birkbeck, a 1985 graduate of Akron, was a four-year letterman, two-time captain, the 1982 Ohio Valley Conference MVP and an all-American with the Zips. He still holds the Akron career record with 24 victories.
Scott Daeley, who coaches third base for Kent State, has been a member of Stricklin’s staff for eight seasons. Prior to his arrival at Kent State, Daeley served as a volunteer assistant coach for two years at his alma mater Wake Forest. Daeley rejoined the Wake Forest baseball program in May 2002 after spending three years in the San Francisco Giants farm system. Daeley played center field and batted leadoff for the Demon Deacons in 1998 and 1999 and was the catalyst for back-to-back ACC championship teams. He earned second team All-ACC honors in 1999 with 27 doubles and 83 runs scored, the second most in a single season in Wake Forest baseball history. A 31st round draft pick following the 1999 season, Daeley reached the Double-A level at Shreveport and also played for San Jose and Salem-Keizer.
Daeley came to Wake Forest from Cypress Junior College in California where he hit .350, set school records for runs scored and stolen bases and was named co-MVP of the 1997 junior college state championships after hitting two home runs in the state tournament for the Chargers.
Kent State’s two volunteer assistant coaches - Doug Sanders and Kyle Smith - are certainly no strangers to the program. Sanders, who coaches first base for Kent State, was a Second Team All-MAC infielder for the Golden Flashes in 2008 while Smith garnered First Team All-MAC honors on the mound for Kent State in ‘08 and was a 20th-round draft selection of the Cleveland Indians in 2009.
WINNERS IN THE CLASSROOM
Kent State baseball has always held a standard of excellence on the baseball diamond under eighth-year head coach Scott Stricklin. It’s the team success off the field, though, that deserves just as much attention.
On Thursday (June 14), the Golden Flashes were honored by the NCAA for earning a Public Recognition Award, based on their most recent multi-year Academic Progress Rate. The award is given each year to teams with APRs in the top 10 percent in each sport.
With perfect 1000 multi-year APR, the 2012 honor marks the third consecutive year that Kent State baseball has been recognized, putting the team in elite company as one of only 16 schools in the country to reach the accomplishment. Of the 16 teams to earn the public recognition the past three years, the Kent State baseball program is the only public institution on a list that includes Brown, Bucknell, Holy Cross, Columbia, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Lafayette, Mount St. Mary's, St. Joseph's, Stanford, Penn, Vanderbilt and Yale.
The Golden Flashes academic prowess is backed by a cumulative 3.093 team Grade Point Average. The team GPA brought extra special meaning to the team on Thursday night when they were recognized for having the highest team GPA amongst the eight teams in the 2012 College World Series.
The full APRs for all teams will be released by the NCAA on June 20.
Each year, the NCAA tracks the classroom performance of student-athletes on every Division I team through the annual scorecard of academic achievement, known as APR. The score measures eligibility and retention each semester or quarter and provides a clear picture of the academic culture in each sport. The most recent APRs are multi-year rates based on scores from the 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years.
Six Golden Flashes were selected in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft earlier this week – tied with the 2009 squad for the second-most draft selections in program history. Kent State has now produced 86 draft picks – 30 of which have come under the watch of eighth-year head coach Scott Stricklin.
• Kent State senior southpaw ace David Starn (Hudson, Ohio) was selected by the Atlanta Braves with the 239th pick in the seventh round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
A former walk-on, Starn has blossomed into a Louisville Slugger Second Team All-America pick and Kent State’s career leader in pitching victories (29) strikeouts (343) and innings pitched (335.1). Starn became the second straight Kent State arm to earn Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year recognition, 10th in program history and fourth under the tutelage of 15th-year associate head coach/pitching coach Mike Birkbeck in 2012. He ranks as the conference’s top pitcher with a league-best 2.21 ERA and 123 strikeouts – the most in a single season in Kent State history - to go along with an 11-3 record on the hill. In conference action, Starn was 5-1 with a 2.21 ERA and 74 strikeouts against just 18 walks.
Starn garnered the MAC’s final East Division Pitcher of the Week honors after dominating on the mound on May 17 in a 6-1 win over Akron in the Sixth Annual Diamond Classic For Kids at Canal Park. He fanned nine over six innings while giving up just one earned run on three hits and two walks. Starn became Kent State’s new career strikeouts king on April 6 in the weekend series opener against Buffalo as the Flashes earned a thrilling 5-4 walk-off victory. Starn finished the contest with a career-high 12 strikeouts – including fanning nine of the first 16 batters he faced – to surpass the 274 career strikeouts mark set by Dirk Hayhurst (200-03) to move into first place in the school’s record book. He struck out five over seven innings to up his career total to 300 as Kent State rolled to a 16-5 win over interdivision foe Western Michigan on April 27. Starn also earned the MAC’s first East Division Pitcher of the Week honors of the 2012 season on Feb. 21 after the 2012 Louisville Slugger Third Team Pre-Season All-America selection twirled eight shutout innings and tallied nine strikeouts while scattering just four hits and walking only two on 104 pitches as Kent State rode his arm to blank No. 9 Georgia Tech, 5-0, to lift the lid off of the 2012 season in grand fashion in the opening game of the Rock Hill Coca-Cola Classic on Feb. 17. Starn became the first two-time MAC Tournament MVP in conference history, tossing three scoreless relief innings with three strikeouts to help Kent State overcome Central Michigan, 3-1, in the 2012 title game on May 26 and earn the distinction of being the MAC’s best player in tournament play for a second straight season and helping Kent State clinch its unprecedented fourth straight MAC Tournament crown and 10th in program history. The championship game relief work marked Starn’s second appearance on the bump in the 2012 MAC Tournament. He shut down No. 8-seeded Buffalo over eight frames in the tournament opener on May 23, limiting the Bulls to two hits as the Flashes rolled to a 9-0 win.
Starn, who garnered First Team American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings NCAA Mideast Region, First Team All-Mid-American Conference and MAC Tournament MVP honors in 2011, tied Andy Sonnanstine (2004) for the most strikeouts in a single season in school history with 117, which was tied for the 16th-most in the nation in 2011. Starn was the Sunday starter in an all-left-handed rotation that anchored a pitching staff that ranked sixth in the nation in team ERA with a 2.66 mark. He went 2-0 in two starts in the 2011 MAC Tournament, striking out 15 and allowing just two earned runs on 10 hits in 14.1 innings en route to garnering MVP accolades. He also ranked 48th in the nation with a 2.18 ERA.
• Redshirt sophomore left-handed relief pitcher Michael Clark (Akron, Ohio) was selected by the Houston Astros in the 20th round with the 609th pick. Clark becomes the fourth Kent State player selected by the Astros and second in as many years, joining 2011 10th-round selection, left-handed pitcher Kyle Hallock. A redshirt sophomore transfer from North Carolina State, Clark is 3-4 with a 5.45 ERA in 15 appearances – including three starts – on the hill for the Golden Flashes in 2012. He’s posted 48 strikeouts against 26 walks. Clark played high school ball for American Heritage High School in Florida for head coach Todd Fitz-Gerald, posting a 9-1 record and a 2.36 ERA as a senior in 2009. He registered 78 strikeouts and held opposing hitters to a .198 batting average, earning second-team all-state honors. Clark, who was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 32nd round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, transferred to American Heritage from Massillon High School. Clark struck out Kentucky senior infielder Thomas McCarthy to close the epic book on a 7-6, 21-inning triumph last Friday, twirling 3.2 scoreless relief frames and scattering four hits while striking out four to earn the pitching win for Kent State.
• Senior shortstop Jimmy Rider (Venetia, Pa) was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 26th round with the 796th pick. Rider is the fourth Kent State player to be drafted by his hometown Pirates and first since pitcher John VanBenschoten was Pittsburgh’s first-round selection in 2001. Rider collected his 319th hit with a single to right field in the top of the first inning in Kent State’s 13-4 triumph at Ohio on May 6 to surpass Scott Simon (2003-04, 06-07) of Northern Illinois for the conference’s career hits record. He finished the contest with a double and two singles to up his career total to 321. Rider is now the owner of 350 career hits. A 2012 First Team All-MAC selection, he leads Kent State with a program single-season record 103 hits on the season in 2012 - including a team-high and program single-season record 29 doubles to rank fourth in the country. He’s smashed five home runs and driven in 56 runs and is batting .362. He was named MAC East Division Player of the Week on April 30 after cracking a two-out, two-RBI double to left field in the bottom of the eighth inning to help Kent State blank Western Michigan, 4-0, on April 28 and establish himself as the school’s new all-time hits king. Rider’s historic hit highlighted a week in which the senior co-captain batted a team-best .571 with a team-high 12 hits and five RBIs – including matching his career best with a 5-for-5 effort at the plate in a 6-4 non-conference loss at Penn State on April 25. Rider hit .444 with a team-high eight hits to go along with four RBIs to earn All-NCAA Gary Regional Tournament Team honors. Rider produced the biggest hit in Kent State baseball history with his bottom-of-the-ninth, one-out bloop single that scored Derek Toadvine (Springfield, Ohio) from second base and give Kent State a series-deciding, 3-2 victory over Oregon in the winner-take-all game three of the NCAA Eugene Super Regional, propelling Kent State to its first NCAA College World Series berth in program history. The son of Rosalind and Jim Rider played shortstop for Peters Township High School under Joe Maize. He helped the Indians to a WPIAL Class AAAA state championship in 200 and was named to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette All-Section Team his sophomore and junior seasons.
• Junior right-handed starting pitcher Ryan Bores (Strongsville, Ohio) was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 27th round with the 846th pick. A Second Team All-MAC pick in 2012, Bores owns a 9-3 record in 17 starts, striking out 67 while walking just 16. Bores earned MAC East Division Pitcher of the Week honors on March 26 after displaying the command that made him a 2011 26th-round draft pick of the Rangers, striking out a career-high nine over a career-long eight innings and retiring 14 of the final 15 batters he faced to help Kent State earn a 6-1 Saturday (March 24) victory over Northern Illinois. Bores earned All-NCAA Gary Regional Tournament Team honors. A night after Kent State was forced to use five pitchers in the 21-inning marathon win over Kentucky, Bores gave the Golden Flashes a complete game when they had to have it, striking out two over nine frames of work and limiting Purdue to three earned runs on nine hits and a walk to improve to 9-2 on the season as Kent State trumped the Boilermakers, 7-3 to advance to the regional finals for a second straight season. The son of David and Cheryl Bores transferred to Kent State by way of Cuyahoga Community College after spending the previous year at Ohio. He was a two time first team all-conference pick at Strongsville High School in Strongsville, Ohio, under head coach Josh Sorge.
• Senior catcher David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.) was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 34th round with the 1056th pick. One of 10 finalists for the 2012 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. Lyon put together a career season last year, posting a career-best .315 batting average, .384 on base percentage and .538 slugging percentage with a career-high 75 hits, 36 runs, seven triples (most on the team, second in the MAC; tied with Matt Rundels, 1991 for most in a single season in school history), nine home runs, 27 walks, 53 RBIs and 128 total bases (third on the team, fourth in the MAC). He also led Kent State with 404 putouts, the eighth most in a single season in school history. He earned 2011 ABCA/Rawlings NCAA Mideast Region Second Team and Second Team All-MAC honors for his efforts. He earned All-NCAA Championship Austin Regional honors after he produced perhaps the most memorable hit in Kent State history at the time to help down then-No. 5 Texas, 7-5, on its home field as the Golden Flashes earned their first regional final berth since 2001. Trailing 2-1 with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, Lyon sent a 1-2 pitch sailing over the left field wall and into the Kent State bullpen to give the Golden Flashes a 5-2 lead with his second career grand slam. Lyon was named to the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team under Kent State head coach Scott Stricklin, who served as an assistant coach for the squad and helped the USA win three of five games against Japan. A team co-captain, Lyon sports a .279 batting average in 2012, collecting 65 hits – including 17 doubles, three triples and a team-high 10 home runs – to go along with 41 RBIs. He serves as the backstop for a Kent State pitching staff ranked among the tops in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings. The son of Dave and Connie Lyon Played catcher for Cameron County High School in Pennsylvania under head coach Dick Harrier, helping the Raiders win a District 9 Championship in 2006 and earn a Pennsylvania State Quarterfinals appearance in 2007. For his high school career, he batted .469 with 14 home runs, 24 doubles, 53 RBI and 70 runs scored.
• Redshirt junior designated hitter/infielder Nick Hamilton (Avon Lake, Ohio) was picked by the Cleveland Indians in the 35th round with the 1073rd selection. Hamilton, who has primarily served as Kent State’s designated hitter in 2012, owns a .353 batting average with 60 hits – including 12 doubles – to go along with 35 RBIs and becomes Kent State’s fourth player to ever be drafted by the Indians. The redshirt junior who came to the Golden Flashes by way of transfer after playing one season at Xavier has thrived as a hitter seeing regular playing time in 2012 after started three of the 21 games he played in last season. Prior to his collegiate career, the son of Tom and Wendy Hamilton played third base at Avon Lake High School, earning First Team All-Ohio, Southwestern Conference Most Valuable Player and Lorain County Co-Player of the Year recognition and setting school records with a .481 batting average and a .625 on-base percentage during his senior season. Hamilton’s father, Tom, is the radio play-by-play voice for the Indians.
THE ALL-AMERICAN WAY
Left-handed relief pitcher Brian Clark (Munroe Falls, Ohio) was named to the 2012 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Team, as announced by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Wednesday (June 6).
Clark joins senior southpaw ace David Starn (Hudson, Ohio) and junior first baseman George Roberts (Summerhill, Pa.) as the third member of the 2012 squad to garner All-America honors from Louisville Slugger and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. Starn and Roberts were named Second Team All-America honorees last Thursday (May 31). Clark is the seventh Kent State player in program history to garner such honors and fourth in the last six years. He is the third pitcher to garner such accolades under the tutelage of 15th-year associate head coach/pitching coach Mike Birkbeck. Left-handed pitcher Andrew Chafin was the last Kent State player to be named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Team, earning honors in 2009.
• After starting the 2011 season in an 0-for-22 hitting slump, Roberts has blossomed into the MAC Player of the Year and a Louisville Slugger Second Team All-America pick in 2012, leading Kent State with a .368 average and 62 RBIs to go along with 93 hits - including 23 doubles, a triple and seven home runs.
Roberts ranks second on the team with 30 multi-hit games – including 17 games with two hits, 10 games with three hits and two games with four hits. Roberts, who has started 61 of the 62 games he’s played in, also continued to prove he is the top defensive first baseman in the MAC, recording a team-high 519 putouts while committing just seven errors in a team-high 571 chances. Roberts earned All-MAC Tournament Team recognition after hitting .421 with a team-high eight hits – including three doubles and a grand slam – to go along with a team-high seven RBIs. He was named the Most Outstanding Performer of the 2012 NCAA Gary Regional after hitting .389 with seven hits - including four doubles - to go along with four RBIs.
• A Second Team All-MAC pick out of Munroe Falls, Ohio, Clark has been dominant out of the bullpen for Kent State in 2012, posting four saves (second most on the team) to go along with a 5-0 record and 1.59 ERA in 20 appearances. He’s surrendered just five runs on 15 hits in 28.1 innings of relief to go along with 27 strikeouts against nine walks. The son of Richard and Susan Clark was a two-year team captain at Stow-Munroe Falls High School in Stow, Ohio, earning Northeast Ohio Conference All-Division Team honors as a senior under head coach John Daymon. Clark also competed for the Summitt County Vipers under head coach Roger North, helping the squad place third in the Continental Amateur Baseball Association World Series.
Sophomore right-handed starting pitcher Tyler Skulina (Strongsville, Ohio) has developed into one of the MAC’s best starting arms in only his first season of collegiate competition.
Skulina earned the pitching victory for Kent State in the 3-2 win over then-No. 13 Kentucky in the 2012 NCAA Gary Regional Final, improving to 11-2 on the season to match Andy Sonnanstine (2004) for the most mound triumphs in a single season in Kent State history. He struck out five over seven frames. Skulina ranks second on the squad behind senior southpaw ace David Starn (Hudson, Ohio) with 97 strikeouts.
Skulina sat out the 2011 season after transferring to Kent State from Virginia. A 46th-round MLB First-Year Player Draft selection of the Oakland Athletics in 2010, Skulina posted an undefeated 26-0 record as a starting pitcher at Walsh Jesuit High School under head coach Chris Kaczmar and garnered Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball First Team High School All-American honors in 2009 and honorable mention accolades in 2010.