Flashes return after making statement in Omaha


Family and fans cheer as the Kent State Baseball arrives at Dix Stadium on June 21. The Flashes lost 4-1 against South Carolina earlier in the day, ending their historic run at the College World Series.. Photo by Matt Hafley.

Tim Dorst

The Kent State baseball team’s magical season came to a close Thursday afternoon in Omaha, Neb., but the players came away from their first College World Series trip feeling they made a major statement.

To head coach Scott Stricklin, the team opened a lot of eyes on the national stage and proved to the doubters that the Flashes were more than just a Cinderella story.

“Once we got there, I think we showed everyone that we belonged there,” Stricklin said. “People put that ‘Cinderella’ moniker on us just because we had never been there. But beating a team like Florida that was ranked No.1 showed everybody that we belong in Omaha.”

The Flashes arrived home to Kent Thursday night and received a rousing greeting, with fans surrounding the gates of Dix Stadium to show their support for the team that accomplished so much this season.

The atmosphere at Dix Stadium was only a fraction of what the Flashes experienced in Omaha over the past week, where they were cheered on by many loyal Kent State fans and gained many new fans as well.

“It was incredible honestly,” junior center fielder Evan Campbell said. “The people there treat you like heroes and celebrities. It was the best baseball atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of, and it was really nice knowing that we were playing with everyone supporting us.”

Many of the players, like sophomore starting pitcher Tyler Skulina, were overwhelmed by the amount of fan support they received so far away from home.

“It was just unbelievable,” Skulina said. “I think there was an average of around 25,000 fans per game. The atmosphere was crazy. All of the locals were cheering us on, and everybody was supportive, which was just an amazing feeling.”

Although they didn’t accomplish their ultimate goal of winning a College World Series championship, they far exceeded not only the expectations of many college baseball aficionados across the country, but also their own.

“Our goal was to prove to everyone that Kent State wasn’t just a small, local school,” Campbell said. “We’re nationally known now. Our guys can compete with anybody, and that was evident throughout the past couple weeks.”

Stricklin said while he was disappointed with the team’s loss to South Carolina Thursday, he is proud of what his team accomplished, and he knows the program will continue to get stronger.

“It says a lot about our players and just what we have been able to do as a program,” Stricklin said. “We’re going to build on this. The expectations have just gone up a notch, but that’s a good thing. High expectations are always good.”

Six Kent State players were selected in this year’s Major League Baseball draft, which speaks volumes about where the team stands among other teams in the country and where the team will continue to be for seasons to come.

“I think there will be a lot more respect for our team,” Skulina said. “I think people know now that we belong among the top 25 teams in the nation and that we belong in Omaha again.”

Junior Nick Hamilton, one of the six players to be drafted, said looking back at the Flashes’ history-making season, it has been an unreal experience.

“I honestly don’t think words do it justice,” Hamilton said. “Just having the incredible fan support back home and in Omaha was just amazing. We’re just glad that we could put Kent State on the map and get everybody talking about the Flashes.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].