Tallmadge High School senior right-handed pitcher Tucker Linder is staying close to home.
Linder orally committed Tuesday to continue his baseball and academic careers at Kent State University. His decision is not shocking considering the respect and admiration he has for KSU head coach Scott Stricklin and associate head coach-pitching coach Mike Birkbeck.
“I decided on Kent State at about noon,” Linder said. “It was between them, Arizona and Auburn. It was coming down to the fall and I wanted to make a decision.
“I always wanted to go to Kent State, but I wanted to see what else was out there. [Tuesday] morning I woke up and just felt that I wanted to make it official. It is the right place and right fit for me to work with coach Birkbeck.
Ultimately, I want to get drafted in the first three rounds [in the Major League Baseball Draft]. Coach Birkbeck does a great job working with right-handed pitchers.”
Linder, 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, has a 17-5 pitching record in three varsity seasons. Last season, he went 7-1 with a 0.95 ERA in 11 appearances (nine starts). He worked 51 2/3 innings, tossed five complete games, struck out 70 and walked 21.
“Kent State is where he wants to be at,” Tallmadge coach Kenny Linn said. “The biggest thing with Tuck is that Birkbeck is the top pitching coach in the country.
“Everywhere he went, he would compare these other pitching coaches to Birkbeck.”
Linder, 17, said KSU recruited him to pitch and hit. He batted .378 as a junior with 26 hits in 74 at bats, 24 runs scored, two home runs and 14 RBI.
Linder also had scholarship offers from Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Ohio. Closeness to his parents Karen and Tom, and 19-year-old brother Thomas also played into his decision.
“Tuck is a very special kid, and a very skilled kid,” Linn said. “His work ethic has improved a lot. He understands the importance of the weight room, the running and taking care of his body.”