After posting the best season in school history, the Kent State Golden Flashes baseball team returned back home to a group of fans, alumni,and supporters after their loss in the College World Series Thursday.
KSU football player Freddy Cortez said this was a national showcase for the team.
"It's good for the program and good for the school," Cortez said.
"This will attract many different players to come and play for Kent State, People know that they have a quality program and will come and be a part of a winning tradition."
Fans came to Dix Stadium to welcome the team home after their flight from Omaha Thursday night.
The Flashes' dream season came to an end Thursday afternoon against the South Carolina Gamecocks in a 4-1 loss in the College Baseball World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
Matt Payton says the team still has a lot to be proud of.
"We started out with not a lot of people supporting us outside the Kent community when we first got in the postseason, but it goes to show that the hard work that the team put in has paid off," Payton said.
"Our fan base has grown and a lot of it is because of our team and how tough they are."
Jim Stanton of Kent says the team's success put the Flashes on the national map.
"It was amazing that this collection of kids from Ohio and western Pennsylvania went down and competed with some of the best players in the country and came up just a little bit short, but they represented the area very well."
For the players, it was a bittersweet homecoming, but it was satisfying to see their fans cheering their improbable run.
KSU starter Tyler Skulina talked about the experience, saying that they will be back next season even better.
Kent State Pitcher Tyler Skulina by Aaron Coleman
Fans from Kent with no affiliation to the school also came out to cheer for their hometown boys.
"It's truly awesome," one woman said. "These kids really showed a lot of heart and determination, and we'll be back next year."
The team won a school-record 47 games as they made their first appearance in the College World Series.
For the KSU baseball team, their run this season to take part on college baseball's greatest stage was quite an accomplishment.
Head baseball coach Scott Stricklin says their appearance in the CWS was proof his ballclub could play with anyone in the country.
"Once we got there we showed everyone that we belonged," Stricklin said.
"We got a lot of heart and a lot of talent, just a bunch of kids from Ohio and Western Pennsylvania who gave it their all, but came up short."
Kent State Baseball Coach Scott Stricklin by Aaron Coleman
The loss was tough for the Flashes, but by coming home and seeing the fans, it gave the young men a good conclusion to a remarkable season.
The trip to Omaha was highlighted earlier in the week as the Flashes beat top-ranked Florida Monday to set up the match with the Gamecocks, which was played Thursday after rain washed out things Wednesday.
Stricklin says their successful season doesn't change the team's blue-collar approach to the game.
"We're going to build on this and make our team stronger and better, and our expectations are now going up a notch, but that doesn't change how we play the game."
He says that despite the loss to South Carolina, he's proud of his team for the way they represented themselves on the national stage and throughout the season.
"To go to Omaha, it's what every coach talks about, every coach dreams about and it's just been amazing."
For the players, the trip to Omaha was one they'll never forget.
Pitcher Tyler Skulina (Walsh Jesuit) said that this experience was a thrilling moment in his young career.
"It just gives us more motivation to get back there next year," Skulina said. "It was just unbelievable playing at that level with such great players.
Skulina pitched in the final game against South Carolina and said that while he threw well, he made a couple costly mistakes and that was the deciding factor Thursday afternoon.
"It was a good learning experience and next year we'll be stronger."
Kent's trip to Omaha marked the first time since 1976 that a school from the Mid-American Conference made a berth in the College World Series.
As the Kent State University Golden Flashes continue to advance in the College World Series as the "Cinderella" pick, there's a big dose of responsibility on the shoulders of Tyler Skulina, the Walsh Jesuit High School alum and his power-pitching that has him starting a do-or-go home game against defending champion South Carolina tonight.
Walsh Warriors baseball coach Chris Kaczmar said Skulina is just the kind of player KSU can count on in this biggest of big-game opportunities as the team continues it's remarkable season and run in the series that included this week's upset 5-4 win over perennial powerhouse and top seed University of Florida.
Kaczmar appeared on WAKR's Ray Horner Morning Show to talk about Skulina and the close ties between his baseball program and the program at Kent State University.
"We're absolutely thrilled...there's a tremendous level of excitement," with the Walsh baseball staff and players Kaczmar said. "He's a power pitcher, a guy who sits in the low 90s. He's been able to refine his velocity and has tremendous down action on his fastball with a devastating fastball."
Kaczmar said the Kent State program's accomplishment is "historic" and not a "flash in the pan" establishing such a strong tradition and program in a northern school.
The Golden Flashes and Gamecocks have a first pitch at 8:00 tonight; the game can be heard on Kent State's athletic website via streaming audio and viewed on ESPN television.
Copyright © 2013 AkronNewsNow & Rubber City Radio Group |All Rights Reserved | 1795 West Market Street | Akron, OH 44313 | 330.869.9800