I may not be a Kent State student or alum, but I think any baseball-loving resident of northeast Ohio should be excited about the run by the Kent State Golden Flashes. Tonight they topped the Oregon Ducks 3-2 in a walkoff win that sends them to the College World Series in Omaha – the first trip to the CWS in program history. The victory gave the team their 46th win of the season, which also sets a single season wins record for Kent State.
Tonight’s game was knotted at 2 heading into the bottom of the 9th. Kent State’s all time hits leader, Jimmy Rider, doubled in Derek Toadvine to put the Golden Flashes over the top. This was the decisive game in the 3-game series – the series was tied 1-1 heading into tonight’s game. Kent State defeated Oregon 7-6 on Saturday night after a fantastic, game saving/ending catch by center fielder Evan Campbell. The Golden Flashes were up 7-4 heading into the bottom of the 9th, and watched their 3-run lead dwindle to 1 in the bottom of the 9th. To further complicate matters, the Ducks had the bases loaded with two outs. Campbell’s fantastic catch meant that despite the drama, the Golden Flashes would leave the park with a 1-0 series lead. Kent State lost to Oregon 3-2 on Sunday night, after they held a 2-0 lead for much of the game. Oregon put 3 on the board in the 7th, and Kent State was unable to answer. This game also marked the end of the Golden Flashes’ 21-game win streak, which stretched back to the regular season. Tonight, they spent much of the game up 2-0 again, before Oregon tied the game in the 8th inning. Fortunately the game, and the series, had a happy ending for the Golden Flashes.
So how did Kent State, managed by Scott Stricklin (2012 MAC Coach of the Year), get to Oregon?
– Saturday, May 26: The Golden Flashes won the Mid-American Conference title when they defeated Central Michigan 3-1. It was their 10th MAC tournament title in the program’s history.
– Friday, June 1: The team learned that they would go to the Gary, Indiana Regional with a 3 seed. The Golden Flashes were ranked 25th overall nationally. In their first matchup, they took on number 13 Kentucky in what ended up the second longest game in NCAA tournament history. Lasting 21 innings and 6 hours, 37 minutes, Kent State defeated Kentucky 7-6 after an RBI triple from freshman outfielder Alex Miklos.
– Saturday, June 2: Kent State went to the NCAA regional final after they defeated number 16 Purdue 7-3.
– Sunday, June 3: Since the Regional tournament is double elimination, Kent State would again have to face Kentucky in order to advance to Omaha. This time, the teams finished the matchup in the regulation 9 innings – Kent State defeated Kentucky 3-2. All of the runs for both teams were scored in the 8th inning. This meant that the Golden Flashes would be making the program’s first appearance at the Super Regionals. In fact, no MAC team had ever advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals, which is basically the Sweet 16 of college baseball.
If you look at the team’s roster, many of their players are northeast Ohio natives. The Golden Flashes also recently had six people selected in the Major League first year player draft, tied for the second most in program history. LHP ace David Starn was a 7th round pick by the Atlanta Braves, LHP (reliever) Michael Clark was a 20th round pick by the Houston Astros, shortstop Jimmy Rider was a 26th round selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates, RHP (starter) Ryan Bores was a 27th round pick by the Texas Rangers, catcher David Lyon was a 34th round pick by the Texas Rangers, and DH/infielder Nick Hamilton was a 35th round selection by the Cleveland Indians. Hamilton is the son of radio broadcaster Tom Hamilton, and was the feature of a nice piece in the Plain Dealer.
Kent State will play Arkansas on Saturday, June 16 at 5 p.m. EST. The other matchups in Omaha are Stony Brook vs. UCLA at 5 p.m. ET on Friday, June 15, Arizona vs. Florida State at 9 p.m. ET on Friday June 15, and South Carolina vs. Florida at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 16.