Stricklin Welcomes Eight Newcomers To Kent State Baseball Family
Recruiting class features seven high school seniors, one transfer.
KENT, Ohio -- Eighth-year Kent State head baseball coach Scott Stricklin introduced the program's recruiting class Friday (Nov. 18).
The 2013 class features seven high school seniors and a junior college recruit, including five student-athletes from Ohio, one from Michigan, one from Pennsylvania and one from Washington. The Golden Flashes welcome C/INF/OF Shane Biles (Zanesville, Ohio), RHP Nick Jensen-Clagg (Columbus, Ohio), RHP/INF Tucker Linder (Tallmadge, Ohio), INF/RHP Curtis Olvey (Fairfield, Ohio), RHP Aaron Tadian (Birmingham, Mich.), INF/RHP Justin Wagler (Hartville, Ohio), INF/OF Zarley Zalewski (New Kensington, Pa.) and RHP Taylor Williams (Camas, Wash.).
"We are very excited as a staff to welcome this group of recruits into the Kent State baseball family," said Stricklin. "Coach (Scott) Daeley and coach (Mike) Birkbeck did an excellent job identifying the top players in our region and bringing them to campus. This is a very high profile group of athletes that will immediately impact our program and help us maintain our championship tradition."
Biles is a three-year starting catcher at Zanesville High School and earned First Team All-District and All-East Central Ohio League under head coach David Balo. The son of Todd and Julie Biles enters his senior season ranked in the top five all-time in hits, runs scored and games played for the Blue Devils.
"Shane is a hard-nosed player that impressed us with the way he plays the game," said Stricklin. "He makes everyone around him better because of the way works and competes. He is very versatile in the field and can play many different positions. He swings the bat from the left side and is an above-average runner with good instincts on the bases. Shane is just a very good baseball player that will be a great fit for our program."
Jensen-Clagg has garnered All-District and All-Ohio Capital Conference honors at Pickerington Central High School, breaking the Tigers' single-season doubles record as a junior under head coach Charles Campbell. The son of Dennis Clagg and Kim Jensen was also an all-district quarterback at Pickerington.
"Nick is a great athlete and one of the best pitchers in the state of Ohio," said Stricklin. "He is ultra competitive and commands three above average pitches for strikes. He does everything you need a pitcher to do; commands the strike zone, fields his position, holds runners and really competes. We feel that Nick will compete for a lot of innings as a freshman and will make a push to be in our starting rotation."
Linder enjoyed a 7-1 junior campaign on the mound for Division II District Champion Tallmadge High School that included an 0.95 ERA and 70 strikeouts, earning Second Team All-Ohio accolades under head coach Kenny Linn. The son of Tom and 16th-year Kent State head softball coach Karen Linder boasts a career 17-5 record, 159 strikeouts, two no-hitters and a 1.79 ERA with the Blue Devils and has been a three-sport standout, competing in football and basketball as well.
"We've had the privilege of watching Tucker grow up around our program," said Stricklin. "He excels at everything he does and is one of toughest kids we have seen. He has a great feel for the game and he also has a lot of natural size and strength. He is considered one of the top players in the region and was recruited heavily by a lot of other schools. Tucker will make an immediate impact on our team on the mound and in the field."
Olvey has been a three-year varsity starter at Fairfield High School under head coach Larry Price, earning First Team All-Greater Miami Conference and All-City honors for the Indians. He is the son of Maureen and Curt Olvey.
"Curtis has been on our radar for quite some time," said Stricklin. "He stood out as one of the better hitters in the state of Ohio and we feel like he is going to hit for some power. He can play every position on the infield and has a lot of plus baseball tools. His instincts and work ethic are also very good, and we know he is only going to get better."
Tadian garnered All-Catholic High School League recognition at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School under head coach Jim Mancuso. He is the son of Gary and Michelle Tadian.
"Aaron grabbed our attention late in the recruiting period, and we felt like we had to have him in our program," said Stricklin. "He has a tremendous amount of upside and potential and is the hardest and most dedicated worker we've seen in a long time. As he continues to put on strength and size, Aaron is going to open a lot of eyes. I know that Coach Birkbeck is excited to work with Aaron and help him reach his full potential."
Wagler has been a First Team All-Federal League pick at Lake High School under head coach Mike Parker. His brother, Chad, competed for the Golden Flashes from 2003-06, ranking as one of the top pitchers in school annals. He is the son of Tim and Grace Wagler.
"We've seen Justin play for a number years, and he has really developed into a great player," said Stricklin. "In the last year he made a huge jump strength-wise and separated himself as one of the top hitters in the state. He hits the ball with power to all fields, is a plus runner and is a great athlete. Baseball comes very easy to him and it is going to be exciting to watch him grow as a player."
Zalewski has been a three-year varsity starter at Valley High School, achieving all-section honors for the Vikings under head coach Bruce Campana. He is son of Ed and Cathy Zalewski.
"Zarley is a great athlete that hits for power from both sides of the plate and can play virtually every position on the field," said Stricklin. "He is big and strong and has as much upside as any kid we have ever recruited. We project him to be a middle-of-the-order hitter in our lineup and should make an immediate impact on our team. We are very fortunate to have Zarley join our program."
Williams comes to Kent State by way of Washington State and Mount Hood Community College. He pitched for the New England Collegiate Baseball League champion Keene Swamp Bats over the summer, leading the league with six wins and ranking fifth in ERA (2.18) and sixth in strikeouts (41). Williams was a four year letterwinner under head coach Joe Hallead at Camas High School. The son of Kelly and Lois Williams was a three-time all-league honoree and earned all-league and all-region player of the year honors following his senior season.
"Taylor has a tremendous amount of arm strength with a fastball that gets up into the mid 90's," said Stricklin. "He also knows how to pitch and really competes. He played summer baseball with several of our players this past summer and will be a great addition to our team."
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.
The Golden Flashes open the 2012 season Feb. 17-19 at the Rock Hill Coca-Cola Classic, taking part in a four-game round-robin tournament against Georgia Tech and host Winthrop.