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June 6, 2012Follow KentStateReport.com on Twitter | Givler | Birmingham
The Kent State baseball program, long regarded one of the finest in the MAC, has had its moments. The program has been home to a major league MVP in Thurmon Munson and has seen 80 players selected in the MLB draft. Eleven conference regular season titles and another ten conference tournament wins has cemented the Golden Flashes as a bastion of consistency in the Mid-American Conference.
There was one significant piece of the resume missing though, and it's a step that head coach Scott Stricklin's finally took as they recorded the final out in last Sunday night's 3-2 win against Kentucky. Kent State, and the MAC itself, has finally reached the NCAA Super Regionals.
After Evan Campbell's regional-winning, three-run homerun - what Stricklin said "was the biggest hit in the history of Kent State baseball," - the Flashes need to put their hitting caps back on and prepare for a cross country trek that will land them in Eugene, Oregon, where they will face the Ducks in a potential three-game showdown June 9th through the 11th.
The Flashes, who have not lost since dropping an April 25th contest 6-4 at Penn State, are 44-17 and riding a 20-game win streak into the Ducks nest, where they will take on an Oregon team that is incredibly talented (sitting at 45-17) and nearly equally as hot: the Ducks are 18-4 since April 27th.
Kent State will be facing an Oregon nine that dominated their regional site, placing six players on the All-Regional Team, including Regional MVP Ryan Hambright, who was 7-for-11 in three games. The Ducks run through their regional saw two one-run victories before an impressive 8-1 clincher against Austin Peay.
For Kent State, they will turn to a few of the best in school history to try and buoy them against their Pac-12 opponent. Senior shortstop Jimmy Rider, who broke the conference record for hits on May 6th at Ohio, has been a steady force all year, and Stricklin's team will lean on his .367 batting average and .435 on-base percentage as they have since the season-opening upset of Georgia Tech.
Junior George Roberts, a 6-foot, 190-pound infielder has been just as efficient. Roberts enters this weekend at a team-leading .369 clip and leads the Flashes in RBIs with 62, he's also second in long-balls with seven. Nick Hamilton and Evan Campbell, at .364 and .339 respectively, round out one of the nation's best hitting infields.
Kent State will likely send out senior lefty David Starn to the bump for Saturday's series opener. Starn, 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, who went the first six innings of last Friday's 21-inning marathon against Kentucky, set a new school standard for career strikeouts when he fanned 12 on April 6th against Buffalo. A seventh-round selection of the Atlanta Braves in this week's MLB first year player draft, he is 10-2 on the season and leads the Golden Flashes starters with a 2.01 ERA.
KentStateReport.com will have more on the MAC's premiere baseball program's quest for a College World Series Championship this week.
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