Not many thought Kent State could win the Gary Regional in 2012, a Regional it opened by winning a 21-inning thriller against Kentucky. The odds seemed greater that the Golden Flashes could win twice at Oregon in the Super Regionals. Yet, after three one-run games, Kent State, led by Former Goldpanner Scott Stricklin, marched on to Omaha having won 22 of 23 games.
Stricklin, who guided the Golden Flashes to the past five NCAA tournaments, takes over at Georgia, a program that has six trips to the College World Series – three under former coach David Perno – including a national title in 1990.
It will mark the third time Stricklin has coached in the state of Georgia – he began his career in 1998 as a volunteer at Georgia Tech and was an assistant for the Yellow Jackets from 2002-04 before leaving for Kent State. While at Tech, he recruited future major leaguers Matt Wieters and Micah Owings. He also spent two seasons at Vanderbilt, where he brought in lefty ace Jeremy Sowers. A former catcher who played for and coached with current Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall, Stricklin now will battle his mentor on the field and on the recruiting trail.
First Inning – What are the odds of a guy being born in Athens, Ohio heading to Athens, Ga., to coach the Bulldogs?
They’re even greater when you take in to account I played for the Athens Bulldogs in high school so that’s quite a coincidence.
Second Inning – You’ve been courted before. What made Georgia the job to lure you from Kent State?
It was coaching in the SEC and getting back to the South. The town of Athens is a great place to raise a family, and the chance of competing for a national championship year in and year out.
Third Inning – How difficult was it leaving Kent State?
It was very difficult because Kent State was my alma mater, it’s where I met my wife and we had nine great years there, including eight straight championships. At the end of the day, Georgia was a great opportunity, and we couldn’t pass it up.
Fourth Inning – What are you most proud of from your time coaching the Golden Flashes?
It would be going to Omaha for the College World Series in 2012. We had a team that some people thought would be in a rebuilding year, and we turned that in to one that went to the College World Series and finished ranked fifth in the country.
Fifth Inning – You’ve spent several years in Georgia as an assistant at Georgia Tech. Did that play into the decision, and does that help as you get acclimated?
Coming down here to Georgia, we already knew a lot of people around the state and were familiar with some of the coaches. We loved the South, and we were excited about moving down and living in a warmer climate.
Sixth Inning – What’s it going to be like recruiting and coaching against one of your mentors, Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall?
It’s going to be competitive. Both of us understand we’ll be competing on and off the field, and it’s a great rivalry. Both teams should be in the national picture every year.
Seventh Inning – You go from the MAC to the SEC. Does that change any of your coaching philosophies or style?
I don’t think so. It’s about pitching and defense and executing on offense. That’s what it takes to win championships. We did that at Kent State, and we’re going to get players to do that here.
Eighth Inning – What are some of your immediate goals for Georgia?
We want to create an atmosphere of consistency and discipline. We want to have structure as a team and make them believe we should be a championship-caliber team year in and year out.
Ninth Inning – How did being a former catcher help shape you as a coach?
As a catcher, you’re involved in every part of the game, and to be a great catcher, you have to be a great leader. You have to take pride in leading by example and also have to be a vocal leader. I think it helps in your decision-making process, too, because you have to make quick decisions when you’re a catcher.
By Sean Ryan