Flashes drop first game in Omaha 8-1


Members of the Kent State University baseball team watch an instant replay of a contested call during the College World Series June 16 in Omaha, Neb. The Flashes lost their first game against Arkansas. Photo by Philip Botta.

Matt Lofgren

Down, but not out

OMAHA, Neb. — It wasn’t how Flashes fans dreamed the first game in Omaha, Neb., would go, but as coach Scott Stricklin said after the game, “It’s still possible, we’re still here.”

The Flashes struggled on the mound and at the plate Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park as the Arkansas Razorbacks converted on seven walks en route to an 8-1 victory in the first round of the College World Series.


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“It was obviously disappointing. We didn’t feel like we played our best baseball game,” Stricklin said. “We’ve got another crack at somebody on Monday, that’s what I told the guys in right field [after the game]. We either play the number one team in the country or the two-time defending national champions.”

Starting pitcher senior David Starn struggled out of the gate throwing 16 balls on his first 20 pitches. He finished the day with a total of six walks. Arkansas struck in the first inning, scoring a run with the bases loaded, but the rally was stopped early by one of four double-plays produced by the team.

Of the eight runs the Razorbacks scored, five were earned by Starn.

“Basically, [there was] just a flaw in my mechanics,” Starn said. “I wasn’t really patient with my pitches, and that’s when I let my arm slide, and that’s basically what happened with the control issues. Then coach [Mike] Birkbeck came in the middle of that first inning, and we talked about it, and I felt like I got a little bit better control as the game went on.”

Starn did work hard in his 5.2 innings of work by striking out four and giving the Flashes a chance to bat their way into the game.

Senior Jimmy Rider rose the occasion in the six inning belting a solo home run that snuck inside the left field foul pole.

Rider scored the one run off Arkansas’ DJ Baxendale, who dominated the Flashes all day long through 6.1 innings of work

“[Baxendale] just threw strikes — threw a lot of first pitch strikes,” Rider said. “That swing I was just looking for a fastball, and that was probably the one pitch he left up the whole night. He had been throwing at the knees and far outside corner. That’s pretty tough to hit, but that one pitch he left up and I was able to take advantage of.”

With plenty of work left to be done before Monday’s game against the loser of the Florida-South Carolina game, Stricklin is still optimistic his team can continue on the road to a national championship.

“Look around, we’re in Omaha — that’s the positive,” Stricklin said. “This team has battled so hard, and no one expected us to be here. We hoped to be here but I don’t think one guy before the season would have said we’re going to be here. I think that’s the positive. We’ve got the opportunity to show the world that we’re a really good baseball team.”

From here on out the Flashes have to play perfect baseball against the quality opponents they will face the rest of the way in Stricklin’s eyes. Saturday’s shortcoming can be viewed as a minor hiccup if the team can win on Monday.

“We know we have play our best to win, and that’s what we’ve been doing to get here,” Stricklin said. “We’ve earned the right to get here, and we feel like we belong here. We just want to make sure we play a little cleaner and if we do that, we’ll have an opportunity to win Monday.”

Stricklin also made a point to say that his team wasn’t nervous entering Saturday’s game. Calling his team “relaxed” before the first pitch, something had to be on the minds of the players in the dugout.

Until the fifth inning, the team didn’t have a hit until Sawyer Polen singled. The team finished with just four hits on the day.

Playing in front of 23,980 fans, the Flashes were new to the sizable crowd, but excited to put on a show.

“That was obviously unbelievable,” Rider said. “That’s the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of in probably the nicest stadium so that’s always nice.”

The game also had extra meaning the players as junior catcher Jason Bagoly’s mother, Cheryl McHenry, unexpectedly passed away Thursday night. Everyone on the team wore a sticker on his hat with “CM” written on it in memory.

Underdogs Kent State and Stony Brook all bark with little bite after day two, but early reports have both schools as the two biggest sellers of merchandise around Omaha, Athletic Director Joel Neilsen said.

Follow @MLofgrenDKS for more updates from Omaha, and tweet at us using #FlashesCWS.

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected].