FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
The 55-game slate features contests against two 2010 NCAA Tournament qualifiers and trips to six different states. KSU will play 21 games from the friendly confines of Olga A. Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium and 34 contests on the road.
“I think our first five weekends are our most challenging yet,” said Stricklin. “Every single weekend is going to be a challenge for our guys. Our goal is to put our players in great venues against great teams to try and prepare them for the postseason.”
The season opening series (Feb. 18-20) will have a distinct Kent State feel to it as the past three head coaches of the Golden Flashes will be on the same field in Atlanta when Kent State and Georgia Tech clash in a three-game set. Georgia Tech skipper Danny Hall led the Flashes from 1988-93 and is assisted by former Kent State head coach Rick Rembielak (1994-04).
“It’s going to be fun,” said Stricklin of facing his predecessors. “We’re all very competitive, and having Coach Hall and Coach Rembielak in that opposing dugout is going to make it even more competitive. Having the three latest Kent State coaches all on the same field is going to be special.”
KSU then heads to the Palmetto State (Feb. 25-27) for the Johnny Gill Memorial Tournament, hosted by Winthrop. The Flashes will take on the Eagles twice and play two against Wagner.
Next up for the Golden Flashes is a weekend series (March 4-6) at defending Big East regular season champion Louisville. The two squads will meet up again on March 22 in Louisville.
Kent State travels to the Carolina shore to partake in the Coastal Carolina Tournament (March 11-13). In addition to squaring off with the host Chanticleers — a 2010 NCAA Super Regional participant — Kent State will play Alabama-Birmingham and Notre Dame.
“(Head Coach) Gary Gilmore does an outstanding job with his team year in and year out,” said Stricklin of Coastal Carolina. “They were on the doorstep of the World Series last year. They’ve broken through the regionals, and now they’re trying to take that next step. We’re trying to get to where they are as far as being a team that’s a perennial Super Regional contender.”
Kent State then makes its longest road trip of the season when it travels to Houston for a weekend series (March 18-20) against the Cougars.
The Flashes have scheduled 12 midweek non-conference games. In addition to playing Louisville, Kent State has scheduled home-and-homes against Pittsburgh (March 16 at Pitt, April 6 at home), Xavier (March 23 at Xavier, May 10 at home), Penn State (March 30 at home, April 5 at Penn State), Youngstown State (April 12 at home, April 13 at Youngstown State) and Cleveland State (April 19 at Cleveland State, April 27 at home). Kent State will also host Niagara (April 26).
Kent State’s quest to repeat as Mid-American Conference East Division champions begins with the Flashes’ home opening series against Toledo (March 25-27). Kent State is also slated to host Eastern Michigan (April 8-10), Buffalo (April 22-24), Miami (May 6-8) and Akron (May 19-20). The series against crosstown rival Akron is highlighted by KSU serving as the host team for the Fifth Annual Diamond Classic at Canal Park in Akron on April 20, a contest which benefits Akron Children’s Hospital. Conference road series include Western Michigan (April 1-3), Central Michigan (April 15-17), Ohio (April 29-May 1) and Bowling Green (May 13-15).
“Our conference is always very balanced,” said Stricklin. “From the West Division, I think Toledo and Central Michigan are going to be very good. In the East, Miami is going to be much improved this year.”
The season culminates in the MAC Tournament (May 25-28) in Chillicothe, Ohio. Kent State will be seeking its ninth conference tournament crown and third straight.
“Those first couple games of the tournament, you’ve got to survive,” said Stricklin. “You’ve got to try to get through those first couple games without a loss. We didn’t do a very good job of that last year, but we were able to come back. Our starting pitching was outstanding, and that’s what enabled us to get to the championship game.”
The winner of the tournament receives an automatic bid to the 2011 NCAA Regionals, which are scheduled to be held June 3-6. The survivors of the regionals advance to the NCAA Super Regionals (June 10-13) and set their sights on earning a trip to the College World Series (June 18-29) in Omaha, Neb.
The Golden Flashes earned a second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth in 2010. After wrapping the regular season up with a 39-25 (18-9 MAC) mark and its fourth MAC East Division crown in five years, Kent State won five elimination games in three days to capture the MAC Tournament title and punch a ticket to the NCAA Los Angeles Regional. The Flashes welcome back seven starting position players and three starting pitchers from last year’s squad.