Flashes’ run ends in College World Series



“I’m very proud of him,” said Mari Sutton, mother of T.J. Sutton, as she hugs her son holding back the tears after the Flashes’ second and final loss at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., Thursday, June 21. Photo by Philip Botta.

Matt Lofgren

Kent State’s dream season came to an end Thursday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

Falling to two-time defending national champions South Carolina 4-1, the Flashes have nothing to be ashamed of.

“It’s been unbelievable,” head coach Scott Stricklin said. “I’m just so proud of my team – only one team can win their last game. South Carolina has been that team for the last two years, so there’s no shame in losing to them. I thought our kids fought hard and played hard. Michael Roth, that’s all you can say, the guy is unbelievable – he’s the best pitcher in college baseball.”

Roth threw a game for the record books by tossing a complete game two-hitter with only one earned run. The two hits the Flashes were able to get came in the second inning off a George Roberts hit followed by a Sawyer Polen single to score Roberts.

After that, Roth retired 22 straight Flashes en route to the win to keep the Gamecocks in the College World Series.

“I’ve loved watching him on TV for the last three years, but I absolutely hated watching him today, and I mean that as a compliment,” Stricklin said. “He wanted the ball [after Wednesday’s game was postponed], they made the switch and that’s why they made it.”

There is no shame in losing to Roth who became the College World Series all-time leader in innings pitched Thursday after striking out Derek Toadvine in the third inning. All time in the NCAA post season, Roth is 8-0 with 1.40 ERA in 88.1 innings pitched.

After the game, players and coaches walked through the tunnel in Omaha with a shower of cheers and praise as fans celebrated what the little known school from Kent, Ohio, could do. No tears, just the knowledge of knowing what it takes to get here and the ambitions of a young team coming back hungrier than ever.

Strickin knows it was the team’s chemistry that carried them as far as Omaha.

“We proved everybody wrong,” Stricklin said, “and it just makes us all very proud and this team is very tight and this is by far the favorite team I’ve had just because of what they’ve done for us as a coaching staff and us as a university. They’ve made us all very proud.”

In reality, which still hasn’t set in for the team, the players and coaches have given us something to believe in for the past two weeks. From Gary, Ind., to Eugene, Ore., and finally here in Omaha, Neb., this team has reminded us to believe in the impossible and love the underdog.

“I don’t think that we really understand it,” Stricklin said. “I’ve gotten a lot of text messages and emails with videos of people having watch parties at their house and at restaurants downtown in Kent, and I keep hearing ‘you’re not going to believe it when you see it.’ It’s really special, it really is, to have that kind of support.”


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To give you the magnitude of this series, coach Stricklin has been getting emails of support from Akron fans. That speaks volumes when your archrival even commends what you’re doing.

“Our rival is the Akron Zips and the emails that we’ve gotten from Akron Zip fans, I mean that’s amazing,” Stricklin said. “With those two teams, it’s like any rivalry — it’s a great rivalry. It’s one of those things, we love to hate each other, and it’s good for college sports but those fans, they’ve embraced us because it’s Northeast Ohio, and we’re kind of in this together.”

Wearing the blue and gold one last time

Seniors Jimmy Rider, David Starn, David Lyon, Ryan Mace and Joe Koch all player their last game in a Kent State uniform Thursday.

It’s impossible to replace anyone of these five guys, Sticklin said, because of their own unique personality and leadership they bring to the team. But losing Rider means losing a great player and the MAC’s all-time leader in hits.

“Jimmy, when you grade out his tools, he doesn’t do anything great, he just does everything really good,” Stricklin said. “He’s the best baseball player I’ve ever had.”

Another thing that stung player was because the game ended up being the quickest game, at 2 hours 11 minutes, since 2003, Jason Bagoly was not able to make it to the stadium in time to be with his team after attending his mother’s funeral Wednesday.

Lost time

Because the team was in Omaha during the time that is normally spent on the recruiting trail, Stricklin and his coaching staff have some catching up to do on getting elite baseball players to Kent.

“We’re behind in recruiting right now. We’ve got to make sure we get on the road,” Stricklin said. “We’re not see recruits because we’re out here, but they can see us and I think that’s the biggest key to coming out here is that you’re in the limelight, you’re on the national stage.”

Better yet, Stricklin’s recruiting speech just got a heck of a lot stronger.

“It’s exciting to know what this can do,” Stricklin said. “It’s never been a better time to be at Kent State and I feel that’s a fact, and we’re going to keep selling that message and keep bring kids in that want to compete for a national championship. I can say that now. I used to say that and it really didn’t mean much — we’re competing for MAC championships and playing regionals. Now we are competing for a national championship and look them square in the eye and mean it.”

Larger schools with more money and bigger recruiting pipelines will be looking at Stricklin and his staff as potential candidates for a coaching position elsewhere.

Signing a contract extension before this season, Stricklin stressed his love of Kent State and what the university has done for him.

“I’m at my alma mater,” Stricklin said. “I met my wife here, and we’ve raised a family here. We love Kent State, and that’s what I can tell you that I love Kent State University and you never know what’s going to happen — you never say never — and I love Kent State University.”

From Water Street Tavern to the Old Mattress factory in Omaha, the Blue and Gold pride was second to none. Even the people of Omaha, who celebrate baseball at its purist form before money and agents corrupt it, celebrated Kent State for an entire week.

That is what was so special about Kent State baseball.

“When no one expects you to do anything and you do it and over achieve, it’s just such a satisfying feeling,” Stricklin said. “I think our kids did prove on the national stage that we belong here. We’ve earned a lot of respect along the way.”

Original story

A dominating pitching performance by South Carolina’s Michael Roth made the Flashes dream season come to an end.

Collecting just two hits that come in the second inning, Roth retired 22 straight Golden Flashes to earn a 4-1 win over Kent. The Gamecocks scored twice in second and third innings off Tyler Skulina, all earned, as he finished the season with an 11-3 record.

It was a season of firsts as the team finished with the most wins in program history with 47 wins while collecting the first regional championship, super-regional championship and the university’s first ever NCAA College World Series berth.

Going 1-2 in Omaha with a win over number 1 nationally ranked University of Florida, the Flashes fell to Arkansas and South Carolina to be eliminated from the College World Series.

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected].