Too often the conversation in sports gets stuck on which team or player stands at the top. Everyone wants to be part of No. 1. Well, not everyone can get there. Arizona and South Carolina reached the final of the College World Series. Yet the accomplishment for both is the sustained excellence of their baseball programs.
That is the achievement of Kent State and its baseball team, all worth more celebrating on Thursday evening at the campus student center. Kent reached the College World Series with wins over Purdue and Kentucky (in 21 innings!). Then, the Golden Flashes grabbed two, nail-biting wins over Oregon — in Eugene — to make the Elite Eight, the best in college baseball.
Luck played a part. (It always does.) So did timely hitting, firm defense and gritty pitching.
Count as the most revealing moment in Omaha the win over Florida, the top seed, Kent facing elimination, having just been whacked by Arkansas in the opening game. How easy it would have been for the Flashes to take their reward, enjoy the cheers for getting so far.
Yet they climbed to an early lead, and held their ground, Florida closing the gap to 5-4 but getting no further. The Gators were gone. Kent would continue playing, confirming that its presence was no fluke. That is what Coach Scott Stricklin and his players have been building, competing at the highest level, ready to triumph over anyone.