The College Baseball Blog continues our series of interviews today with Kent State head coach Scott Stricklin. He is entering his sixth season in charge of the Kent State program with a career record of 183-110. He led the Golden Flashes to the NCAA Regional in Tempe, Arizona where they had a record of 1-2 with a victory over nationally ranked Cal-Poly.
1. Kent State finished last season with a 43-17 overall record but lost a few players to graduation and the MLB draft. What are your expectations for the 2010 season with a more difficult schedule with a couple of NCAA teams in the non-conference slate?
We certainly lost a lot of production both on the mound and at the plate but we feel very good about the talent we have. We had several freshman play significant innings last year to help them step into starting roles this year. We felt like we had a lot of depth last year at every position that has enabled us to reload for this year. We have high expectations, as always, here at Kent State and anything less than another championship would be a disappointment.
2. You just had four-year infield starter Chris Tremblay, the all-time leader in assists at KSU, graduate. Now you have Jimmy Rider, who started
the most games on the team as a true freshman and could be another four-year player who may help rewrite the KSU record book. Talk about the importance of having middle infielder like Tremblay to lead on the field?
Chris Tremblay was a great player for us. He was able to learn as a freshman from Emmanuel Burriss and then he passed the torch onto Jimmy Rider. In order to have success at a high level, you have to have a steady player at short-stop. Chris was very consistent defensively and we feel Jimmy will pick up where Chris left off.
3. Jared Humphries was a talented outfielder who covered a lot of ground and was a solid outfielder. Talk about the transition for him from the outfield
to the infield as a fifth-year senior?
Jared Humprheys came to us as a short-stop and we moved him to the outfield. He is our best athlete and the catalyst for our team. By moving him onto the infield, it allows us to get Jared Bartholomew onto the field regularly. Both guys are outstanding defenders in centerfield so we won’t lose anything by moving Humphreys to the infield. We still anticipate Humphreys getting some time in centerfield but the move allows to get all of our best athletes on the field at one time.
4. Last year, you had Andrew Chafin record the second-best ERA in school history and David Starn recorded his only two saves of the year in his last
two appearances in 2009. What freshman pitcher or pitchers look to have a big impact this year?
I would say the we have four freshman that have shown they are ready to help us on the mound. Casey Wilson is a two way player for us that can really pitch. He has as good of a change up that I’ve seen and he will log a lot of innings out of the bullpen. Addison Dunn may have the best overall stuff on our staff and will compete for some starts as we get into mid week games. He has an explosive fastball and a major league breaking ball. David Wright is a red-shirt freshman that has been very solid so far. He throws a lot of strikes with three pitches and is gaining confidence every time he steps on the mound. Christian Lockett has a very strong arm and has probably improved the most out of all the freshman since he got here this fall. His breaking ball has become more consistent and he is throwing more strikes. We expect all four of these guys to contribute significantly this year.
5. Junior Brett Weibley, as a freshman, played mostly third base. As a sophomore, he mostly came out of the bullpen. Explain his transition from being an infielder to the back end of the bullpen and possibly the best prospect in his class?
Brett has one of the strongest arms we have ever had here at Kent State and he showed that as a freshman from third base. His arm was just too good to keep off the mound so we made the switch to the bullpen last season. Brett had a great fall both on the mound and at the plate this fall so we felt he would be a good replacement for Greg Rohan at 1st base. He is very good defensively over there and we can save his arm for later in the game. His future is on the mound but he will get the chance to play as an infielder for at least one more year.
6. Who do you feel will have a breakout season in 2010?
That’s a tough one because we have several guys who I feel could have breakout years. Ben Klafczynski had a solid year last year but I think he’s ready to put up some big numbers. Travis Shaw will play everyday this year and he will be a big run producer as well. Jared Bartholomew sat out last year with a knee injury and he has loads of talent. Anthony Gallas has been very steady his first three years but he is in great shape and very focused on having a great senior year. Kyle McMillen and Jordan Lucas are the two relatively unknown guys who have performed well offensively that could make a huge impact.
7. Among the freshman class, who do you feel will make the biggest impact on this year¹s squad?
Offensively I would say Jason Bagoly and George Roberts. Both guys can really hit and play the game hard. On the mound, Casey Wilson and Addison Dunn have a chance to log significant innings in crucial situations.
8. Ball State was picked to win the conference, Bowling Green in the East while Ohio and Kent State have been mentioned as top teams in the conference. Who
do you feel should also be mentioned among the top team in the conference? Which team in the conference do you feel will have a breakout year?
This is probably the most balanced our league has been in a long time. Bowling Green returns most of their line up and pitching staff from last year’s championship team so I think they are worthy of the preseason nod to win the east. Ball State has a great offense and the most talented player in the league in Kolbrin Vitek. They deserve the early mention of favorites in the west. Toledo has really come on the last few years and Cory Mee and his staff deserve a lot of credit. They really work hard on the recruiting trails and they have developed their players once they get on campus. The sleeper in the league may be Central Michigan. They had a young team last year that had a lot of talent so I look for them them to make a big push this year and be the breakout team.
9. Last year, we saw an offensive explosion in the MAC. Do you feel pitchers will be able to take some ground back or will the offenses in the conference
be as strong as ever?
Our conference lost a lot offensive talent last year with the departures of Marc Krauss, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Greg Rohan and Jordan Petraitis just to name a few. However, I still think the offenses in the league are a little ahead of the pitching staffs. And if the winds are blowing the way they were last spring, it really won’t matter. Runs are going to be put on the board.
10. We have now been through two seasons with the Uniform Start Date being in effect. What is your early opinion on the rule change?
It hasn’t really affected us much because we couldn’t start any earlier than mid February to begin with. It has leveled the playing field a bit because the teams in warm weather states cannot start as early and spread their games out. When they could start in early February or even late January, they could play three games a week with an occasional mid week game while we would have to bunch all of games up near the end of the season when it warms up. Five games per week are the norm up north and the guys down south don’t like to do that. It’s a debate that will never go away and there are solid arguments on both sides. I just feel that if the NCAA really wants this to be a national sport, we need to move the season back not forward.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Coach Stricklin for taking some time out of his busy schedule to participate in this for us. Special thanks to Kent State Baseball SID Matthew Lofton for setting up this interview.