The College Baseball Blog recently had a chance to speak with Scott Stricklin. He is entering his fourth season at the helm of the Golden Flashes program. He led the team to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and a conference championship game appearance in 2006.
1. In 2007, Kent State had a solid record of 33-26 with an outstanding record of 19-8 in the MAC. This season you return seven out of your nine starters from your MAC championship and NCAA participant squad. Who do you think has improved the most during fall practice from 2007?
We had several guys make jumps this fall for us. Doug Sanders, our second baseman, came back in great shape and worked very hard to become more athletic. Conor Egan saw limited time in the outfield last season but has really improved and will be pushing guys for more at bats. Jason Patton was the MVP of the MAC tournament last spring and he has added some strength and is ready to have a great junior year. On the mound, Kyle Smith and Jon Pokorny really impressed us this fall. Both guys gained strength over the summer and they now have one college season under their belt. Steven Ross has come back from injury and looks like he is going to be ready to make a push for a lot of innings.
2. Chris Carpenter entered the 2007 season as your top starter in terms of talent. He had an up and down season where he went 4-1 with a 4.50 ERA. I heard that he had some issues in the Cape Cod League on his surgically repaired right arm. Is he going to be ready to hold down your Number 1 starter role when play kicks off on February 22nd against UNC-Greensboro?
When you look only at Chris’ numbers from last year, they do appear average. However, when he pitched his way back into our rotation, we started winning. We won 16 of our last 17 games going into the regionals and Chris was a big reason why. He is our best prospect in terms of a professional player but he is also our hardest worker. Our kids really look up to him and he makes everyone around him better. He established himself as our number one starter this fall and is much more comfortable on the mound. When he was pitching last season, he was coming off almost a two year break due to Tommy John surgery. He has found the command for his fastball and his breaking ball has really sharpened up. We are all looking forward to watching him finally be able to pitch at 100% every Friday this spring.
3. You lost your top catcher in Will Vazquez who started 56 games last season. You have four catchers on your roster including Cory Hindel who is transferring from Wake Forest. Has any of the four put a hold onto the position heading into Spring practice?
Losing a leader like Will Vazquez is always difficult but I’m very optimistic about our catching situation. Cory Hindel came in and had a great fall for us and established himself as our starting catcher. However, Tyler Martin also had a good fall and has worked extremely hard. Those two will be pushing each other for the majority of innings behind the plate.
4. How will the new rules with the way the scholarships can be split on the team affect your program? Do you think it is a good change for college baseball?
I don’t think too many coaches are excited about having a minimum scholarship put into effect. We are already short-handed with 11.7 scholarships and now we are being told how to spend that money. The roster limit of 35 will not affect us because we are operating with a 32 man roster right now but I know that it will impact a lot of other schools and players on those rosters. The other dynamic that will be difficult to handle on a yearly basis is the rule that stipulates that only 27 players on the roster can receive athletic scholarships. The uncertainty of the pro draft will make this a tough issue for sure.
5. Has any of your incoming freshman impressed you during Fall Workouts? Do you see any of them breaking into the starting lineup this season?
We were very happy with our freshman this fall and feel like several of them will make an impact for us. Ben Klafczynski had a very solid fall with the bat and made some strides defensively in the outfield. Brett Weibley came into the fall injured but was able to practice at the end of the fall. He showed a lot of athletic ability at 3rd base and is going to hit for a lot of power. We feel that both Ben and Brett have a chance to be a great players here. The two freshman pitchers that performed well were Justin Gill and Kyle Hallock. Both showed that they can locate their fastballs and have command of their secondary stuff. Cory Martin, another one of our left handed freshman, has really made some improvements this off season and we feel that he is going to get some quality innings.
6. What is your biggest challenge on and off the field in dealing with young men from 18-23?
There are always challenges when you are dealing with 32 different individuals on a daily basis. It’s certainly never boring around here! I think as a coach you can limit those challenges if you recruit the right type of kids. Talented players are great, but if they are going to give you constant headaches off the field, it’s just not worth it. Our kids are required to go to class and we check to make sure they do. They are all required to do at least five hours of community service to make sure they are giving something back. If my kids are busy doing the right things, they don’t have much time to do the wrong things.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Scott for checking in with us for the second straight year. If any more coaches are interested in doing a similar interview feel free to email us by clicking here.