June 12, 2012
Stricklin: No Flash in the Pan
By Sean Ryan
Hall wasn’t really looking for a catcher.
But a local high school coach tipped off Hall –
then the head coach at Kent State – on a kid named Scott
Stricklin (left) from tiny The Plains, Ohio, just outside of
Athens. Stricklin’s high school coach told Hall that everyone
expected the catcher to go to Ohio University, where his dad had
played football. Stricklin, however, was upset that a pitcher on
his team at Athens High School got a better offer from Ohio.
So, Hall, from Coolville, Ohio, about 20 miles
from Athens, asked his dad to go take a look.
“My dad said: He can really catch and throw; I
don’t know how much he’s going to hit,” said Hall, the longtime
coach at Georgia Tech, Monday night.
Thus began a special relationship. Stricklin
played for Hall at Kent State and assisted him at Georgia Tech.
And now, Stricklin joins his mentor and former
coach as a College World Series coach, guiding Kent State to a
3-2 win over Oregon Monday night to capture the Eugene Super
“That was amazing,” Hall said. “I’m so happy for
him. It was gut-wrenching for me when Oregon got two there in
the eighth, and they brought the closer in. It looked like all
the momentum was on their side.”
it has the past two months, Kent State found a way to get it
done, scoring a run in the bottom of the ninth on a Jimmy Rider
floater down the left-field line.
The Golden Flashes, who started the NCAA
tournament by winning a 21-inning thriller against Kentucky,
have won 22 of 23 after three one-run affairs with the Ducks,
the loss coming to Oregon by the same score the night before. Of
the six games Kent State has played in the tourney, five have
been decided by one run with the Golden Flashes winning four of
them, including another 3-2 win over Kentucky to win the Gary
Greg Rohan, a former Kent State star who now
plays for the Daytona Cubs, was on the field at the same time
his Golden Flashes were becoming the first MAC team since 1976
and the first team from Ohio since 1970 to reach Omaha. He was
getting updates on the game from pitchers who weren’t playing.
“I’m surprised, but I know the type of guys who
lead the team right now,” Rohan said while on the team bus after
a game in Tampa. “I’m surprised, but I’m so pumped. I can’t put
it into words.”
Growing up about 45 minutes from Kent in North
Lima, Ohio, Rohan always wanted to attend Kent State. He was a
freshman when Stricklin arrived at Kent State eight years ago
after spending three seasons as the recruiting coordinator under
Hall at Georgia Tech.
“From his first day on campus, he got everyone
straight on his goals and what our goals would be,” Rohan said.
Rohan praised Stricklin and assistants Mike
Birkbeck (14 years) and Scott Daeley (7) for their leadership
and always being there for him when he had a question or was
unsure about something. The fact the staff has been together for
so long is “one of the best things about Kent State.” Stricklin
and Daeley work well off each other, according to Rohan.
for Stricklin, the coach of the hour?
“He’s just a hard-nosed guy,” Rohan said. “He
knows how to get the most out of every single player that he
The same can be said about Stricklin the player.
When Stricklin arrived at Kent State – his
recruiting visit was the same weekend as future Major League
pitcher Brian Anderson, who ultimately chose Wright State – he
was a backup to a junior catcher named Greg Beals, now the coach
at Ohio State.
“Scott was always a hard worker and an intense
guy, those are the things I can recall,” said Beals, who spent
nine years as a Golden Flashes assistant and eight years as head
coach at Ball State before joining the Buckeyes in 2010. “I see
these same qualities I saw as a player as a coach.”
Beals left after his junior year to play
professionally with the New York Mets organization, opening up
the starting catching job for Stricklin.
With Stricklin behind the dish, Kent State won
MAC titles in 1992 and 1993 and traveled to Regionals in
Tallahassee and Baton Rouge. Over those two years, the Golden
Flashes ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation in ERA.
“He was literally like a coach on the field,”
Hall said. “He pretty much called all the pitches. He ran the
games. It was pretty easy to tell that once he finished up
playing baseball, he had a future as a coach.”
After five years of Minor League ball – he
reached Triple-A with the Twins organization – Stricklin joined
Hall’s staff as a volunteer for the 1999 season. He then went to
assist Roy Mewbourne at Vanderbilt for two seasons.
While at Vandy, Stricklin was able to lure a
fellow Ohio native – a lefty pitcher named Jeremy Sowers – to
Nashville. Hall credits Stricklin with getting the Vanderbilt
program going in the right direction.
He rejoined Hall in 2002, when the Yellow Jackets
won a school-record 52 games and advanced to the College World
Series. His hitters – including Victor Menocal, Matthew Boggs,
Jeremy Slayden, Eric Patterson and Matt Murton – batted .330 as
a team that year. As recruiting coordinator, Baseball America
and Collegiate Baseball ranked his recruiting class,
which included Micah Owings, Tyler Greene and Jason Neighborgall,
No. 1 in the nation.
“Number 1, he’s a great evaluator and a great
recruiter,” Hall said. “He’s a great communicator, he’s a great
coach, he has the whole package.”
Hall recalls the Yellow Jackets needing a catcher
and at a time when all the Perfect Game tournaments were taking
place, Stricklin called and said, “I found our catcher.” The
switch-hitter from South Carolina who idolized former Tech
catcher Jason Varitek was Matt Wieters.
“And he got him, we pried him out of there,” Hall
Kent State coach Rick Rembielak took the head job at Wake
Forest, Stricklin was offered and accepted the job at his alma
All Stricklin has done in eight years is guide
the Golden Flashes to five NCAA Regionals, including each of the
past four. And after pushing Texas to the limit in the Austin
Regional last year, Kent State has pushed its way to Omaha.
“Nobody had them picked to go to Omaha,” Beals
said. “Is it a surprise? Yeah, a little, but it’s not shocking
As a fellow alum and former coach at Kent State,
Beals said he’s very happy for Stricklin and his staff, adding
that the Flashes are a very well-coached team.
“I took a bunch of text messages from former
players and coaches,” Beals said of Monday’s epic win. “Everyone
is ecstatic about what they’ve done this year.”
Rohan said that watching the Golden Flashes win
the Gary Regional brought him back to his playing days at Kent
“I’ve talked to more alumni and former teammates
in the past week than I have the past few years,” said Rohan,
who graduated in 2009.
Some of those teammates were with Rohan that
first year eight years ago when Stricklin arrived. Among those
goals Stricklin set for the Golden Flashes: one day going to
Rohan remembers fondly Stricklin bringing the
team together at the end of practices, encouraging his players
to huddle up and say “Omaha” on three.
“That seems like a long time ago,” Rohan said.
“They’re really doing it.”
(photos courtesy of KSU Media Relations Office)