Local players bring national attention to KSU
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Kent State coach Scott Stricklin loves the exposure the Golden Flashes are getting at the College World Series, yet he doesn't expect to capitalize on it going forward.
The players he likes to recruit already know about his program. Of the 27 players on the CWS roster, 21 are homegrown Ohioans. The rest are from next door in Pennsylvania.
Like other teams in the North, Kent State doesn't practice outdoors much, or at all, until March. The Flashes share an indoor practice facility with the football team and play on a field with artificial turf.
This year the Flashes played their first 18 games on the road before their March 23 home opener. Twelve-hour bus rides to the South are common early in the season.
Stricklin said he looks for kids who have a toughness and competitiveness about them.
Shortstop Jimmy Rider of Venetia, Pa., who homered for Kent State's only run against Arkansas on Saturday, embodies the team's personality, athletic director Joel Nielsen said.
"We were his only Division I offer," Nielsen said. "Now he's the all-time hits leader at Kent State and in the MAC. He's still a size-7 (shoe) and 160 pounds soaking wet."
Nielsen signed Stricklin to a six-year contract last July that pays him a base salary of $145,000.
"He's got a great reputation in (northeast Ohio) and he has a method and a program that just works for us and for this area," Nielsen said.
Kent State (46-19) will play No. 1 national seed Florida (47-19) in an elimination game Monday.
To be matched against a Southeastern Conference power and the 2011 national runner-up in mid-June means Kent State has gotten the most out of the mere $720,000 a year it spends on baseball.
"We're already known as a regional power in the Midwest," Stricklin said. "What this does is it puts us more on the national radar, a little more awareness of what we've been able to accomplish."
SHARING A RIDE: Pac-12 co-champions Arizona and UCLA were opponents Sunday night after being travel partners last week.
The teams shared a charter flight to Omaha.
Everyone got a long fine. But Arizona coach Andy Lopez said he had to rein in his wife, who attended UCLA and spent a lot of time reminiscing with UCLA folks about her college days.
"I said, `Hey, we're getting paid by Arizona. What are you doing?' " Lopez said.
HOT HOG ARMS AND BATS: Arkansas pitchers have allowed just one earned run on nine hits over 19 innings spanning the super regional-clinching win over Baylor and Saturday's 8-1 victory over Kent State.
The game against Kent State marked a big improvement offensively for the Razorbacks, who had been held to one run or less in five of eight games since the Southeastern Conference tournament.
No one is hotter than freshman Joe Serrano, who is batting .588 in the NCAA tournament after going 3 for 3 with a sacrifice against Kent State. Serrano entered regionals batting .262. He's now at .356.
"It's a big part of us being here," coach Dave Van Horn said.
South Carolina believes it will be facing an Arkansas team that's peaking on Monday night.
"Arkansas is a great team. We saw that when we went to Fayetteville," center fielder Evan Marzilli said. "They have a bunch of guys out of the pen that throw hard and some really good hitters. Just like every other SEC game that we have, it's going to be a tough one. So we'll be ready."
ONE AT A TIME: Don't bother asking Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan how he figures to get the Gators back to the best-of-three finals. After losing 7-3 to South Carolina on Saturday, the Gators must win four games, starting Monday against Kent State. Hudson Randall (9-2) will start.
"I'm not going to look too far ahead," O'Sullivan said. "We've got a game on Monday. That's all I'm concerned about. We got Hudson and we got a lot of our pen left. And then we'll take it one game at a time. Once you're in the loser's bracket you can't look too far ahead."
SHORT HOPS: Florida State third baseman Sherman Johnson and center fielder James Ramsey each made their 198th consecutive starts Sunday. ... Saturday's South Carolina-Florida game marked the first time since 1960 that the two teams that played for the championship the previous year met in the opening round. ... Florida's Preston Tucker has 258 career RBIs, the most among all active Division I players. ... South Carolina is 27-1 in the NCAA tournament the past three years, the best three-year tournament winning percentage in history.