If Kent State baseball coach Scott Stricklin is feeling neglected or disrespected as his team prepares for the program’s first appearance in the College World Series, he’s certainly not letting it show.
No one could blame him if he felt those things. In subsequent weeks, a newspaper article referred to the Flashes (46-18) as the “Kent State Golden Eagles.” In the past few days a mock up of a T-shirt that was to be sold at this weekend’s festivities referred to them as Kentucky State. The shirt, which never made it to production, was leaked online.
“These guys have all seen us play on TV. We’ve got a very good ballclub. We feel like we belong here,” Stricklin said. “We played a very good Kentucky team in our regional and beat them twice. So I think we’ve proven that we do belong here and we’re proud to be here.”
But although they come in having vanquished Kentucky and Purdue in the Gary, Ind., regional and Oregon in a thrilling three-game series on the Ducks’ home field in Eugene, Ore., it is Stony Brook, who upset LSU, that has received the lion’s share of attention as the Cinderella team.
“I’m thrilled for Stony Brook. The thing I’m most thrilled about is they’re in the other bracket,” Stricklin said. “Let them be in that bracket, let us be in the other bracket.”
Stricklin isn’t shocked by the attention that Stony Brook is getting. They’re an offensive juggernaut and folks dig offense. Nor does he feel that his team has been neglected — where it matters.
“We’re getting all the love we need, trust me. We’re getting plenty of exposure,” he said. “[In] Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, we’re getting all the exposure that we need. We don’t recruit nationwide anyway. But I feel we’re getting a lot of respect.”
If he’s worried about getting respect from Arkansas, KSU’s first opponent in the CWS, there is no need.
The Flashes and Razorbacks won’t be complete strangers when they meet at 5 p.m. Saturday in Omaha, Neb.
Stricklin and Arkansas (44-20) coach Dave Van Horn got to know one another fairly well when they were assistants for the 2011 Collegiate National Team last summer.
“I truly believe by being around Scott for approximately a month, this past summer, I learned a lot about him and his personalities, his make-up, and the way he runs his club,” Van Horn said during an opening news conference, “just through conversations on the field, off the field, dinner, whatever, on the bus.”
He also appears to have a firm grasp on the personality of a team that has caught several of the other big boys off guard in the postseason.
“I remember before the selection show, I was talking to the coaches at the [SEC] tournament, one thing you don’t want to face in a regional is Kent State because they’re up there, they have a chip on their shoulder, they play hard,” he said.
Van Horn is very aware of what Stricklin has accomplished in his stint at his alma mater.
“It’s not like Kent State came out of nowhere,” he said “They’ve been pretty good for a long time, and Scott’s taken them to another level. Some great coaches go through there. He’s just taken it through the roof. So we all knew about them.”
That’s the type of respect that should concern Stricklin and his team, but not consume them. Despite the perceived slights, they’ve caught the attention of all of college baseball.
“We have a lot of pride in what we do. We feel it year-in and year-out that we had a chance to get here,” Stricklin said. “To be honest, we thought last year’s team was the team that could get here. The fact that we could get here this year, I think is a testament to the toughness of our kids.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.