Kent State Baseball Continues Standard Of Excellence
Golden Flashes achieve third straight perfect APR score.
KENT, Ohio -- The Kent State baseball program has enjoyed an unprecedented amount of success on the baseball field during head coach Scott Stricklin's eight-year tenure. Four NCAA Tournament appearances, four Mid-American Conference Tournament titles and two regular season crowns, seven All-America selections, 34 all-conference picks and 21 Major League Baseball Draft selections have been the product of the two-time MAC Coach of the Year and 2011 American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Mideast Region Coach of the Year's vision on the diamond.
It's the team success off the field, though, that deserves just as much attention. The team's 2009-10 Academic Progress Rate (APR) score of a perfect 1,000 marks the squad's third such score in as many years. Kent State's multi-year rate ranks as the highest from a public institution in the sport and matches prestigious private institutions such as Yale, Duke and Bucknell as the top score in the country. Only eight public institutions achieved a top 30-APR multi-year rate. The Academic Progress Rate is a Division I metric developed to track the academic achievement of teams each academic term. Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one retention point for staying in school and one eligibility point for being academically eligible. A team's total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by one thousand to equal the team's Academic Progress Rate score.
"It signifies that, not only are we winning championships and competing at a high level on the field, we're also doing things the right way off the field," said Stricklin of the meaning of the team's perfect APR three-peat. "To be ranked among the elite private institutions says a lot about our program and staff and what the players have done in the classroom. We make sure they go to class every single day. They're held accountable for everything that they do on and off the field, and our players have bought into it. It's something they take a lot of pride in."
Since inheriting a squad that carried a team grade-point average of 2.77 in the spring of 2005, the program posted its first GPA of 3.0 or above in the fall of 2008 (3.01) and tallied its highest GPA ever in the fall of 2010 (3.26). The program has posted 3.0 GPAs or higher four of the last six semesters. Major selections such as finance, business and biology can be found throughout the team's roster.
"Coach Stricklin frequently has student-athletes who are drafted into professional baseball, and those guys come back to complete their degrees," said Director of Student-Athlete Development and baseball academic advisor Angie Seabeck. "He keeps a close eye on the team and makes sure they're not only completing their minimum academic requirements, but exceeding those expectations and excelling. It's a credit to the way he runs his program and a credit to the student-athletes he recruits."
Under Stricklin's watch, 20 members of the 2011 squad posted GPAs of 3.0 or above, all while the Golden Flashes were in midst of their best season ever. Kent State finished the 2011 season ranked No. 26 in the nation according to the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, winning the MAC regular season and tournament championships and earning a berth in the 2011 NCAA Championship Austin Regional. After earning the program's first-ever national tournament regional No. 3 seed, Kent State tallied an 11-inning 4-2 win over Texas State and followed it with a 7-5 winner's bracket triumph over regional host and No. 5-ranked Texas to earn the school's second-ever berth in a regional final. The Flashes became the first squad to win three straight MAC Tournament crowns and first since 2005 to win the conference's regular season and tournament titles in the same season. Kent State's mark of 45-17 matched the 1992 squad for most victories in program history.
Three Golden Flashes were named to the 2011 Academic All-MAC squad, including Chicago White Sox fourth-round selection Kyle McMillen and Boston Red Sox ninth-round pick Travis Shaw. Current senior catcher David Lyon (Emporium, Pa.), who was also a Second Team All-MAC pick in '11 and competed for USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team over the summer, discussed the program's balance of excellence in baseball and in the classroom.
"It comes from Coach Stricklin," said Lyon. "He makes it clear to us that if we don't go to class, we can't play. If you're in class, you might as well try your best. There's no point in not taking advantage of the opportunities we have. The upperclassmen are always good students, and they set the tone for competition amongst the team to see who can achieve the highest GPA each semester."
With the attitude of expectations for excellence being carried from the coaching and support staff down through the roster, the Kent State baseball program has set a standard for greatness in its endeavors both on the diamond and in the game of life.