KENT: It’s clear from their work ethic that the Kent State Golden Flashes have a blue-collar mentality in the way they approach the game of baseball.
Hard work is the norm, not the exception.
Through that hard work, players who came to the program with little fanfare have made huge contributions to help get this Golden Flashes team where no other had gone before.
The Flashes won the Gary, Ind., regional and have advanced to the Super Regional in Eugene, Ore., where they will play the host Oregon Ducks in a best-of-three series beginning Saturday night. The winner gets a berth in the College World Series.
Among those unheralded players are:
• Freshman outfielder Alex Miklos, who delivered the game-winning hit in a 21-inning marathon victory over Kentucky in the regional opener last Friday.
• Sophomore second baseman Derek Toadvine, whose defensive play has been pivotal throughout the season.
• Junior first baseman George Roberts, who was recently named Mid-American Conference Player of the Year.
• Junior pitcher David Starn, the ace of the Flashes’ staff, who will get a chance to take his skills to the next level after being selected by the Atlanta Braves in the seventh round of this week’s Major League Baseball Draft.
These are just four among those who arrived at KSU seeking to prove themselves.
Coach Scott Stricklin marvels at what Starn has accomplished after he arrived as a freshman walk-on.
“He’s a walk-on and he’s the most decorated pitcher in Kent State history,” Stricklin said.
Starn generated some interest from other MAC schools but chose instead to walk on at Kent State. He appeared in 19 games his freshman year and showed enough to impress Stricklin and his staff.
“I’m glad about what I’ve done,” Starn said. “I’ve worked really hard to get to where I want to be. It’s been a long road. Basically I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and not change anything and be someone that I’m not.”
That philosophy has served him well.
“David’s certainly not a walk-on anymore. After his freshman year, we put him on scholarship,” Stricklin said.
Starn admitted that the snubs out of high school were significant motivation for him to push himself to get better.
Toadvine agreed. Drawing just two Division I offers out of high school, from KSU and Wright State, he opted to play for the Flashes.
“I think it just kind of pushes you to work harder to try to get more recognition and learn things that you can do to help people notice you,” he said.
Part of the reason that players opt to play for KSU is the program Stricklin has put together and the coach himself.
“Coach Stricklin saw something in me that I guess other coaches didn’t,” Toadvine said. “He’s given me a great opportunity to come out here and put together a great season and a chance to get drafted and move on to the next level.”
There are advantages to having motivated team players as opposed to highly touted recruits coming into a program. No one is going to turn down the next Ken Griffey Jr., but someone with something to prove can sometimes bring more to a team.
“I think guys come in with a little chip on their shoulders and try to prove that ‘Hey, I deserve a scholarship and I’m going to work really hard to do that,’ ” Stricklin said. “We’ve had a lot of guys do that on this club. I’m really grateful for the kids we’ve had and what they’ve been able to do.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.