Here's what Kent State coach Scott Stricklin, starting pitcher Ryan Bores, catcher David Lyon, shortstop Jimmy Rider and reliever Josh Pierce said after a 5-4 victory over No. 1 Florida Monday in the College World Series. (Courtesy ASAP Sports)
The decision eliminated Florida and sent KSU into an 8 p.m. loser's bracket game Wednesday against Monday night's Arkansas-South Carolina loser.
COACH STRICKLIN: It was an outstanding win for our program and our university and all of Northeastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania these kids represent. Really proud of what we were able to accomplish. I don't think many people gave us much of a chance today.
But there are 27 players and five coaches and a lot of fans that believe we can win, and we felt that. We felt that we could win this game.
Just very proud of what we were able to accomplish. We'd just be a great team, a team that deservedly so was ranked number one in the country. And well coached, really talented. And we were just able to find a way to win.
It wasn't the prettiest thing in the end. It was gut wrenching no matter who you were rooting for. Even if you weren't rooting for anybody, that was tough to watch.
But we've found a way. That's what this team has done all year long, and we're still here. We're still in Omaha and proud to be here.
Q. Scott, you came flying out of the dugout with the check swing. What did you see? Also, what's going through your mind in that inning?
COACH STRICKLIN: Throw a strike. Throw a strike. I saw a full swing, and everyone else saw it too, especially on the third base side. I don't know if the home plate umpire blinked. I was surprised he didn't call it, and it worried me. I jumped out there because he didn't react right away. I had to yell. I know David was going to ask.
But the longer you wait on those calls, the longer that third base umpire has to wait, the tougher it is for him to call a strike. So I saw it right away. I haven't seen the replay. I just saw it with my naked eye, but he swung in my opinion. So I reacted. When I didn't see him react, that's when I jumped out of the dugout.
Q. Ryan, if you could talk about your defense behind you. They helped you out a lot in there?
RYAN BORES: Yeah, definitely. I went out there and tried to throw strikes. I know how good we have behind me, so I was trying to throw strikes and let them make plays behind me. I went out there and threw pitches. Hope to go keep it on the ground, the wind was swirling and knocked a lot of balls down. You all saw Campbell's catch, it was a great catch, and he played great defense.
Q. David and Jimmy, did you guys change an approach at all when they changed pitchers from Randall to Crawford? It was pretty different stuff. Did you have to change your approach when they changed pitchers?
JIMMY RIDER: Yeah, a little bit. Randall was a guy that we wanted to wait back on and try to attack his fastball a little more and see it deep. But Crawford comes in, and he's throwing upper 90's, mid 90's.
So we had to jump on his fastball a little bit more and get the front foot down early to be able to do that.
Q. Scott, as good as Arkansas was on Saturday, you were adamant that you didn't play well. How important was it to get off to a good start and try to hang on from there?
COACH STRICKLIN: That's what we talked about before the game. The key was to get runs off Randall, because that bullpen is so good. That's their plan of attack is get a lead and hand it over to the bullpen. I don't know what's wrong with Hudson. Hopefully he's okay. He didn't look himself.
The first pitch of the game, Evan Campbell hit it into the gap and hit it pretty good. He came back and said he's not throwing very hard. So our guys were seeing the ball pretty good. We knew we needed to get some runs. We had a lot of opportunities that we squandered, too, and that's what made it so tough there at the end. We knew we could have had a few more runs.
Yeah, we needed to get some runs early, get ahead, and let our bullpen take over. Trust me, our bullpen is really good. They weren't as good as we'd like them to be tonight. But bottom line, Coach Burke and the entire pitching staff found a way to get it done, and we move on.
Q. I wonder if you guys could say how you were feeling in the ninth when Florida was up and how nervous you were? Did it feel like 21 innings all over again?
JOSH PIERCE: To be honest, this was the first time I've ever been nervous pitching, even in a 21 inning game and that situation, I never got nervous. I did today, but I had to come out and clear my mind. It was fine. Nothing new.
JIMMY RIDER: I don't think I was nervous, more mad and annoyed. They were finding a way to get it done which was interesting. So all the better.
DAVID LYON: I was kind of on the same page as Jimmy, getting annoyed, and throwing high fastballs and hoping they were throwing it down the middle and wouldn't hit it over the fence. We were struggling a little at the end, and then found a way to get it done.
RYAN BORES: I had faith in Josh. He was in a loss of clusters this year, and found a way to get it done.
Q. Scott, the way you guys started today, can you describe what you saw on your team, and how they may have had if their mentality and readiness was different than it was against Arkansas?
COACH STRICKLIN: We were really relaxed. We talked about that before the game. We talked about it before the game and last night, actually, and this morning in our scouting report meeting that we were going to be loose and relaxed. That's what we told these guys on the bus before we played Oregon in game 3. We were going to be loose and relaxed and go to Omaha.
We said the same thing this morning after the scouting report that we were going to be loose, relax and have fun, and advance in Omaha, and that's what these kids did. There was no tension. Certainly there were some nerves there in the ninth. Our kids were the aggressors. If you were watching that game and had never seen a college baseball game before and didn't know any better, we looked awfully good out there.
I think the thing that I feel best about is that now people that are watching, the people that saw us play Saturday saw that we are here and we belong here. That's the most important thing that we wanted as a team and as a program, and as a university was to make a statement that we belong here. We're not a fluke. We're a really good baseball team. That is the biggest win in school history.
Q. Obviously this game came down to the last pitch, and has a lot of emotion in it. First off, what did it feel like for the guys to win that? And then also what did it feel like to have pretty much the whole crowd erupt in cheers when you did win it ?
RYAN BORES: It was a great feeling having all those people behind you. In the Arkansas game, everybody was an Arkansas fan out there. We didn't have a lot of Kent State fans. So it was nice to know the stadium was behind us.
DAVID LYON: To build on that, against Arkansas it seemed we were playing in a sea of red. Everywhere we looked we had red shirts and we had our little section of gold shirts. Before the game they announced the teams, and the Arkansas fans, it sounded like we were back in Oregon. The place erupted and was extremely loud. And the Kent State fans were a little loud, but not quite up to what the Arkansas team was like.
But it's just great to know that everyone's behind us now. The quote unquote Cinderella stories are we're the only team left. Stony Brook got bounced yesterday, and it seems that all of Omaha has adopted us and rooting us on.
Q. This question is directed at any of the players that wish to take the question. You come into this tournament and people like to refer to you as a Cinderella with Stony Brook. But you said opening day I know that the numbers coming into the tournament that you brought really didn't make you a Cinderella. You said, we're good. We have as much a right to be here as anyone else. Can you reflect on how this win backs that statement up for you guys?
DAVID LYON: Yeah, we definitely feel like we deserve to be here, and hopefully we showed that out there today. After Saturday night, we probably left a lot of doubt in people's minds after today. We kind of used the Cinderella story to our advantage. Just got caught thinking about their next game. We had to jump on them early and kind of shock them with that.
Q. Scott, it kind of gets lost in the mix all the hoopla in the end. Talk about the job that Ryan did today and break down his performance?
COACH STRICKLIN: He was outstanding. They did hit some balls hard, had a good approach and made some great plays and a big momentum shift was the double play that he knocked down. The line drive in the middle got us out in the second or third inning the diving catch by Evan Campbell.
Ryan's not a strikeout guy. He pitches to contact and gets a lot of outs and a low pitch count. We talked about sending him back out there, but it was very hot, very humid. It's tough sledding for pitchers out there today. We felt good with our bullpen, and that's why we made the move.
Defense was the story today. Ryan threw it in the zone and let the guys make the plays behind him.
Q. Can you talk about how happy you are for Jason Bagoly to play today, and play the role that he did?
COACH STRICKLIN: This has been a difficult few days for our program. I can't even imagine what it's been like for Jason. The last couple nights I've really been wrestling with the decision. I was really disappointed in myself that I didn't get him on. I should have had him at bat second or third inning, and I was disappointed he didn't get that at bat.
We talked about it as a staff and we went back and forth. You think about the ramifications if he has a bad game. He gets out there and plays, and things go wrong. I think that shows you what kind of kid he is, and how tough he is. It gave our team a lift. It really did. His first at bat, to battle like he did and get that base hit off of Crawford. I mean, it was unbelievable.
These guys watch Jason bunt every day. It is by far the best bunt Jason Bagoly has ever put down. He just had an unbelievable game, and that gave us a lift.
I think he needed that. I think his family needed that. I'm just really proud that he's on our team. He's going to fly back tomorrow. His mother's funeral is tomorrow. He's going to fly back tomorrow morning and spend some time with his family. Then we'll see him back here again. I don't know when, but those are the plans for him.
DAVID LYON: It's great. Jason's a fighter. If he went back to back strikeouts, nothing would have changed. We're part of his family, we're always behind him, and he knows that and that helped him battle and succeed the way he did today.