College World Series-bound Kent State boasts 7 players with Western Pa. ties
Kent State's winning recipe has been spiced with a distinct Western Pennsylvania flavor.
Of the eight starting position players for the Golden Flashes, who face Arkansas in a first-round College World Series game Saturday in Omaha, Neb., three are from the region.
Senior shortstop Jimmy Rider of Peters Township is the career Mid-American Conference hits leader.
“There's some great baseball in that area,” Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. “We always try to make our (recruiting) presence known.”
This is the first trip for the Northeast Ohio school to college baseball's ultimate destination. Only eight teams reach Omaha each year.
Stricklin said he liked his team before the season, but “I felt that if we ever got to Omaha, last year would have been the year. We were loaded with talent.”
The 2012 model reached a higher level, winning 21 straight games at one point.
“Hard-working, blue-collar kids,” Stricklin said. “They overcame obstacles and got the job done in workmanlike fashion. That's the thing that people in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania can relate to. I think we represent the area well because of what we're made of.”
Kent State's postseason run aptly began at a ballpark named the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind., with a 21-inning, 7-6 win over Kentucky that lasted 6 hours, 37 minutes.
After advancing to the Super Regional, the Golden Flashes twice beat Oregon, the top-seeded host team.
“At the beginning of the season, I don't think any of us imagined we'd be in Omaha,” said Rider, who was drafted in the 26th round by the Pirates and then had the game-winning hit that punched the Omaha ticket. “We lost a lot of guys. But we just started feeling good, and everything started rolling.”
Other players from the region in the lineup include junior first baseman and MAC Player of the Year George Roberts (Forest Hills) from Summerhill, Cambria County, and freshman outfielder Alex Miklos from Grove City.
Freshman Eric Dorsch from Gibsonia (North Allegheny) and catcher Jeff Revesz from Grove City also have played. Revesz's brother, Jason, a freshman pitcher, is being redshirted.
Senior catcher David Lyon from Emporium in Cameron County was drafted in the 34th round of the MLB draft by the Texas Rangers.
Stricklin hopes to land Valley shortstop Zarley Zalewski, drafted as an outfielder by the Pirates in the 40th round, for next season.
Arkansas, making its third Omaha visit in eight years and seventh overall, has players from 10 states on its roster. All of Kent State's players are from Pennsylvania and Ohio, “and that's the way we're gonna keep it,” Stricklin said. “Occasionally, we'll get a guy outside of our area, but it's rare. We like to stay in our area.”
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7810.