Former Kent State baseball coach Scott Stricklin is enjoying a solid start to his first season as head coach at Georgia.
The Bulldogs improved to 16-12-1 overall and 3-5-1 in the rugged Southeastern Conference by taking 2-of-3 games last weekend against No. 22 Texas A&M. They led the series finale late, but allowed five runs in the final two innings of a 9-5 home loss.
"It was a really good weekend for us as a whole when you look at it," said Stricklin. "To win two out of three against a Top 25 team is a good weekend for us. It's certainly unfortunate for us to lose (Sunday) in front of such a great crowd. It would have been such a perfect day to win, and it just got away from us late."
Georgia lost five of its first six games of the year, but later reeled off 11 straight victories -- culminated by a 7-1 triumph over No. 24 Mississippi State.
A year ago the Bulldogs finished 21-31 overall and 7-19 in the SEC. They will play three games at Missouri (13-13, 3-6 SEC) this weekend.
Former Kent State men's basketball coaches produced mixed results during the 2013-14 season.
Gary Waters (92-60 at KSU, 1996-2001) became Cleveland State's all-time winningest coach when he notched triumph No. 150 last February. The Vikings wound up 21-12, eclipsing 20 wins for the fifth time in eight seasons at CSU.
The Vikings were eliminated from the postseason CollegeInsider.com Tournament by the Ohio Bobcats, coached by another former KSU mentor, Jim Christian (137-59 at KSU, 2002-08). The Bobcats made it to the CIT quarterfinals and wound up with 25 wins this season, one more than they notched during Christian's first season at OU in 2012-13.
On the flip side, Geno Ford (68-37 at KSU, 2008-11) and Stan Heath suffered through rough seasons. Ford went just 12-20 in his third year at Bradley, while Heath - who guided the Flashes to a school-record 30 wins and into the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight in his only season in Kent (2001-02) - was fired by South Florida after his second straight 12-win season. He did lead USF to a pair of NCAA Tournament wins in 2012 before things fell apart.
Kent State made a dramatic final-round run at Nebraska, but fell just short Saturday at the Mountain View Collegiate Invitational in Tuscon, Ariz. The Flashes fired a final-round 3-over-par 291, but the Cornhuskers -- who led KSU by five strokes entering the last day -- held on to capture the team title by one stroke at 10-over-par 874. Kent State finished second, giving the team three consecutive top-two finishes this year.
Jennifer Ha shot a final-round 1-under 71 to finish in a tie for eighth place at 1-over 217. Natalie Goodson finished 11th at 3-over 291 along with teammate Wad Phaedwchimplee, while Taylor Kim closed with a 1-over 73 and finished 5-over for the event.
Kent State will be back in action Friday at the SMU Athletic Club Invitational in Dallas.
TRACK AND FIELD
Kent State's track teams opened the outdoor season at the Lenny Lyles/Clark Wood Invitational last weekend, held at the University of Louisville.
Matthias Tayala led the way, taking first place in the hammer throw with a personal best and meet-record toss of 224-11.
Tyler Jones finished first in the high jump with a mark of 6-2.75, and Jesse Oxley took top honors in the pole vault with a height of 16-7.25.
The 4x100-meter relay team of Riak Reese, Wayne Gordon, William Barnes and Nate Scales placed second with a time of 42.03.
Miles Dunlap (400-meter hurdles, 52.34) and Sam Ludgood (triple jump, 45-3.5) both took second in their respective events.
On the women's side, senior C.J. Carlisle - a former standout at Garfield High School - took first in the javelin with a toss of 151-7. The Flashes' 4x100-meter relay team of Ann Marie Duffus, Roseanne Erickson, Katie Reiser and Chanitta Westbrooks finished first in 48.33.
Lakie Kent-Allen took second in the triple jump, clearing 36-3.5, while the team of Kaila Gardner, Jorian Ordway, Chelsea Laury and Erica Hutson was runner-up in the 4x400-meter relay (3:55.64). Hutson also finished third in the 400 meters (58.3).
Kent State shot 13-over-par 297 in Tuesday's final round to close out the Valspar Collegiate Invitational in 13th place.
After beginning the last day at even par following rounds of 283 and 285 on Monday, the Flashes slipped just one spot on the leaderboard while shooting 297 on a difficult day for scoring at the 7,076-yard Floridian Golf Club.
No. 4 Georgia Tech cruised to the team championship at 15-under par, eight shots better than runner-up and third-ranked Oklahoma State in an elite field that included 11 teams ranked in the top-30.
Senior Taylor Pendrith led Kent State by tying for sixth place individually at 4-under-par 209. He followed rounds of 72 and 67 by closing with a 1-under 70 that included six birdies.
"Taylor had an awesome week that should move him well up the individual rankings," said KSU coach Herb Page. "He was fantastic."
Senior Corey Conners finished in a tie for 42nd place at 5-over-par after rounds of 70-75-73-218. Kyle Kmiecik (71-76-76-223) rounded out Kent State's senior trio in a 59th-place tie at 10-over.
Next up for the Flashes is a trip to Texas A&M this weekend for the Aggie Invitational at The Traditions in College Station.
"We need to play a lot of golf, so that is what we are going to do," said Page. "We'll get in a lot of rounds during the rest of spring break before we go to College Station."
Kent State senior Marie Case was selected Second Team All-America in the all-around by the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women. She was the only gymnast from the MAC to earn All-American honors.
Case was the individual champion in the all-around (39.500) and on the balance beam (9.900), and tied for co-champion on the vault (9.850) at the MAC Championships. She was named MAC Senior Gymnast of the Year and Gymnast of the Year.
Kent State will compete in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional on Saturday.
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