Omaha, Neb. – The No. 6 University of Arkansas Razorbacks (44-20) are set to take on No. 8 Kent State University Golden Flashes (46-18) on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. CT to start the 2012 College World Series play for both teams.
Kent State won the 2012 Mid-American Conference regular season title and post season title winning four straight games to earn an automatic bid to NCAA Baseball’s 64-team tournament.
The Golden Flashes have already had a record setting year in wins with 46, including a winning streak of 21-games. Now Kent State is trying to earn the school’s first national championship in their first appearance in the College World Series.
If Kent State should advance to the CWS Championship Game they will have to rely on starting pitcher David Starn’s arm to take them there.
Starn, a senior left handed pitcher, broke the school’s career strikeout record against Buffalo in early April and has continued to pad his career mark the remainder of the season (343). Starn also holds the school record for wins with 29 and innings pitched raking up a total of 335.1 innings.
The former walk-on was named the MAC 2012 Player of the Year and earned second team All-American honors from Louisville Slugger.
Starn was selected in the seventh round of the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft by the Atlanta Braves with the 239th overall pick.
Five other Golden Flashes were selected in the first year MLB draft this month- relief pitcher Michael Clark (20th round, Astros), starting pitcher Ryan Bores (27th round Texas Rangers), catcher David Lyon (34th round, Texas Rangers), and DH/INF Nick Hamilton (35th round, Cleveland Indians).
Included in the draft was shortstop Jimmy Rider. Rider was selected in the 26th round by the Pittsburg Pirates.
Rider broke the school’s all-time hit record in late April against Western Michigan. Rider also owns the Mid-American Conference all-time hit’s record. He is second on the team with a .364 batting average and in RBI with 56 but leads in the team in total hits (103), doubles (29) and total bases (149).
Junior first baseman George Roberts leads Kent State at the plate with a .368 batting average and is second on the team with 8 homeruns. Roberts has 93 hits on the year and a team high 64 RBI.
Nick Hamilton (.347), Evan Campbell (.327), and T.J. Sutton (.305) round out a Kent State lineup that hit for an average of .302 collectively during the 2012 season.
By season’s end Kent State was 23rd in team batting average in Division-I, third in total hits (711), eighth in runs (438), and led the country in doubles (161).
As the caliber of pitching has increased in post season play the Flashes batting average has decreased. The team is hitting .255 during the NCAA post season.
The heart of the Kent State lineup is still producing. Rider is hitting a team high .387 when it counts followed by Roberts .367 batting average.
If the Hogs can neutralize Rider and Roberts expect another low scoring affair on Saturday.
Kent State head coach Scott Stricklin has several arms he can bring out of the bullpen against Arkansas on Saturday including Brian Clark (5-0, 1.59 ERA, with 4 saves), Ryan Mace (2-3, 3.27 ERA with 4 saves), and Casey Wilson (1-0, 3.74 ERA with 7 saves).
The Golden Flashes are a good overall team with above average to great starting pitching. They play sound defense only committing 67 errors on the season and put pressure on opposing defenses forcing 102 errors by putting the ball into play.
Perhaps what is more important is despite the poor quality of regular season opponents, the lack of high end competition has not effected the team’s play in the post season or dampened their competitive spirits. The Flashes appear to be a team that believes in each other and never quits as evident by their 21 inning 7-6 regional win over the Kentucky Wildcats.
Kent State is patient at the plate and willing to play small ball similar to Arkansas. The Golden Flashes were second in Division-I in sacrifice flies with 44 and catcher David Lyon has drawn a team high 50 total walks this season.
The overall team speed is slow having stolen 52 bases in 71 attempts. The base stealing numbers are slightly skewed as sophomore outfielder Troy Summers has 20 of those steals in 25 attempts.
Stricklin is in his eighth year as head coach at Kent State and has won back-to-back MAC Coach of the Year honors. He is a well respected coach and knows how to win.
Stricklin and Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn were assistant coaches on the 2011 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team together last year under Missouri coach Tim Jamieson. Both coaches know each other’s styles and have similar ball clubs. This should make for an interesting session of college baseball strategy on Saturday.
Because each coach plays small ball with their lineup and relies on quality pitching, will one coach over think his position trying to set up ideal in-game matchups or will the other coach receive the needed run support or pitching gem from their team aces?
ESPN is scheduled to air the Arkansas vs. Kent State game starting at 4:00 p.m. CT. All games will be played at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Inside Bracket Two
Arkansas, No. 1 Florida (47-18), Kent State, and No. 2 South Carolina 45-17) are in Bracket 2 of the CWS. Florida will battle USC in Game 2 action schedule to begin at 8:00 p.m. CT on Saturday.
The winners of Game 1 and Game 2 will play Monday at 8:00 p.m. CT while the losers will play an elimination game Monday at 4:00 p.m. CT.
The first team to three wins in each bracket advances to the College World Series Championship Game.
UCLA, Stony Brook, Arizona, and Florida State are in Bracket One.
UCLA beat Stony Brook in Game One on Friday 9-1.
Arizona and FSU will battle it out in Game Two Friday night.
Saturday’s Probable Starters
Arkansas: D.J. Baxendale, 7-5, 3.18 ERA, 89 SO, 23 BB, 18 GS, 96.1 IP
Kent State: David Starn, 11-3, 2.21 ERA, 123 SO, 45 BB, 17 GS, 114.0 IP
Kent State Overall Records:
Kent State Regular Season Record vs. Quality Opponents:
Vs. Georgia Tech 1-1
At New Mexico State 2-2
At Pepperdine 1-2
At Fresno State 0-2
Bad Losses for Kent State Regular Season (Total Defeats):
Penn State (2)
Bowling Green (2)
Kent State Post Season Record:
(Gary, Indiana, Regional)
Oregon Super Regional
Won 7-6 vs. Oregon
Lost 3-2 vs. Oregon
Won 3-2 vs. Oregon
The Golden Flashes have won 25 of their last 27 games
The last MAC team to advance to the CWS was Eastern Michigan when the Swoop/Eagles finished as the CWS runner-up.
Topics: Arkansas, Arkansas Razorbacks, College Baseball, College World Series, D.J. Baxendale, Dave Van Horn, David Starn, George Roberts, Golden Flashes Vs. Razorbacks, Jimmy Rider, Kent State Baseball, Kent State Vs. Arkansas, Razorbacks, SEC Baseball, University Of Arkansas