Local players bring national attention to Kent St.

Associated Press Modified: June 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm •  Published: June 17, 2012
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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Kent State coach Scott Stricklin loves the exposure the Golden Flashes are getting at the College World Series, yet he doesn't expect to capitalize on it going forward.

The players he likes to recruit already know about his program. Of the 27 players on the CWS roster, 21 are homegrown Ohioans. The rest are from next door in Pennsylvania.

Like other teams in the North, Kent State doesn't practice outdoors much, or at all, until March. The Flashes share an indoor practice facility with the football team and play on a field with artificial turf.

This year the Flashes played their first 18 games on the road before their March 23 home opener. Twelve-hour bus rides to the South are common early in the season.

Stricklin said he looks for kids who have a toughness and competitiveness about them.

Shortstop Jimmy Rider of Venetia, Pa., who homered for Kent State's only run against Arkansas on Saturday, embodies the team's personality, athletic director Joel Nielsen said.

"We were his only Division I offer," Nielsen said. "Now he's the all-time hits leader at Kent State and in the MAC. He's still a size-7 (shoe) and 160 pounds soaking wet."

Nielsen signed Stricklin to a six-year contract last July that pays him a base salary of $145,000.

"He's got a great reputation in (northeast Ohio) and he has a method and a program that just works for us and for this area," Nielsen said.

Kent State (46-19) will play No. 1 national seed Florida (47-19) in an elimination game Monday.

To be matched against a Southeastern Conference power and the 2011 national runner-up in mid-June means Kent State has gotten the most out of the mere $720,000 a year it spends on baseball.

"We're already known as a regional power in the Midwest," Stricklin said. "What this does is it puts us more on the national radar, a little more awareness of what we've been able to accomplish."

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SHARING A RIDE: Pac-12 co-champions Arizona and UCLA were opponents Sunday night after being travel partners last week.

The teams shared a charter flight to Omaha.

Everyone got a long fine. But Arizona coach Andy Lopez said he had to rein in his wife, who attended UCLA and spent a lot of time reminiscing with UCLA folks about her college days.