Life on the road suits Kent State
Notebook: Champs rally around fish; SEC foes reunite
OMAHA, Neb. – Following its Super Regional win in Oregon on Monday, there was no feasible way for Kent State to head back to Ohio before coming to Omaha. So the Golden Flashes will live out of a suitcase for at least a few more days, even though they only packed for three days before leaving home.
A long bus ride from Eugene to Portland for the flight to the College World Series allowed head coach Scott Stricklin to try and instill some normalcy – at least verbally.
“Just getting on the field, that’s normal to them,” Stricklin said. “We told the guys on that bus ride to ‘Take it all in. We want you to enjoy this.’ George Horton at Oregon gave me some advice – he told me to take a step back and smell the roses.”
Kent State has only been home a couple of days since its Gary Regional victory nearly three weeks ago. But that doesn’t bother this squad one bit.
“It’s been a lot of fun – it’s been worth it,” Stricklin said. “It’s tough on laundry, though. It’s a challenge. Eugene was a great host and helped us out, but we had a long travel day to get here. We didn’t get into our hotel until about 1:30 in the morning. It’s really about catching up on rest and catching our breath for three days before we start.”
Fear the fish: At this point in the season, it seems every college baseball team has a zany rallying cry, or superstition. For South Carolina, the two-time defending national champions, that includes Reptar the betta fish.
Third baseman LB Dantzler started the hottest trend in Columbia, S.C. in late April when he couldn’t find a fish-sitter before a road trip to Auburn. Now, Reptar goes everywhere with the Gamecocks.
“I wanted a dog, but couldn’t get a dog – didn’t have the time,” Dantzler said. “I took him to Auburn and it was actually one of our better offensive weekends. It just blew up. The Thursday before, nobody knew what it was. But by the Tuesday after there were t-shirts and it’s just carried over.”
It’s been such a craze in Columbia that even head coach Ray Tanner couldn’t get "Fear the Fish" t-shirts because they were sold out.
“Reptar wasn’t something they concocted – it just happened,” Tanner said. “It took on a life of its own immediately. We have a lot of followers of our program, and when word got out that the fish was with us on the trip, here came the t-shirts. My wife went to go get my kids the t-shirts and they were sold out the first day and I’m going ‘This is absolutely crazy.’ But you know what? It’s all fun.”
And in case you’re wondering, Reptar did make the trip to Omaha – just not with the team. It took the 20-hour ride with the equipment truck due to not being able to fly. Will he make it to TD Ameritrade Park Omaha?
“It’s too hot keep him outside,” Dantzler said. “So we’ll keep him at the hotel. We tried to keep him in the bullpen but it’s just too risky. So we keep him in the locker room or the hotel while on the road.”
It’s not a rivalry, but… Ask Florida if its series with South Carolina is a rivalry and nobody would say it was. Every SEC foe can be considered a rival – in some way. Especially one that ended the Gators’ season right here in Omaha last year in the CWS Finals.
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The two have met four times since the Gamecocks celebrated their second consecutive national championship in front of the Gators. Florida won three of those four, including a meeting in the SEC Tournament. The Gators are again ready for this stage.
“That all doesn’t mean a lot once yet get here,” Florida’s Preston Tucker said of his team's regular-season success against South Carolina. “We know what we’re going to get, and they know what they’re going to get. It’s a whole different story once you get to Omaha, but we’re looking forward to playing them.”
“We played some really close games with them,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It’s been a very competitive competition, but I’m not quite sure rivalry is the right word. There is mutual respect between both programs and I’m sure Saturday night will be no different.”
While South Carolina ace Michael Roth didn’t get the win in the first meeting of the 2012 season, he pitched in the Gamecocks’ only win against the Gators. Matt Price picked up the victory in relief following Roth’s 6.2 innings of four-hit ball.
Arkansas’ unofficial captain: Team captains are voted on before the season starts. No one knew that reliever Colby Suggs would have such an impact on the 2012 Razorbacks team – both on and off the field.
This sophomore has been lights out on the mound, going 7-0 with a 1.22 ERA in 29 appearances this season. Opponents are hitting just .211 off the righthander.
But maybe more importantly, it’s what Suggs has done while in the dugout and bullpen that has his coach, Dave Van Horn, so impressed.
“Off the field, Colby is a big teddy bear,” Van Horn said. “He’s big, strong, tough and everyone knows that. But he’s such a nice guy that he’s so well-liked by our players. But on the field, I’ve seen such confidence from him that we trust him to finish games. He finished a game to get to the College World Series. When he’s in the dugout, when things weren’t going good, he started getting after people. Coaches can get after guys, and guys will get tired of listening to them but one of your peers is getting after you – he can be kind of intimidating. They listen to him. We need that. He’ll probably be a unanimous captain when the players vote next year.”
Suggs says he just tries to bring his former sport, football, to the game he plays now.
“I just try to keep everybody loose and everyone focused on the game,” Suggs said. “I try to bring a football mentality to the game because that’s the way I am and that’s the way I’m built. I’ll scream at them, yell at them, punch them if I have to – whatever it takes to get everyone pumped and into the game.”