Dead Bats Reduce Rabbling, May Find Michigan A Coach

Submitted by Brian on June 12th, 2012 at 1:19 PM


Kent State and Stony Brook celebrate CWS berths

The Big Ten's consistent rabble about college baseball's current format—a rabbling I also rabble rabble—looks a little less rabbly today now that not one but two Northern teams from who-dat conferences have made the College World Series: Kent State and Stony Brook. Kent State got a walk-off bloop single in game three to down Oregon; Stony Brook took out LSU.

Kent State won a regional featuring all-destroying Big Ten dual champ Purdue, taking out SEC #2 seed Kentucky twice along the way. Five of their six games have been one-run affairs of which they've won four. Baseball is very random—so random that it's remarkable a Big Ten team hasn't made it to the CWS on the strength of crazy bounces in the past 28 years.

Theory: the NCAA's introduction of "dead bats" in the past couple years has reduced scoring and made it more difficult for better teams to overwhelm their opponents by dumping home run after home run into the bleachers. Last year was the first year of the new bat regulations:

Auburn, which led the nation last season with 130 home runs, had hit just 32 as of May 8. Just up the road, Georgia Tech and its 122 home runs the year before have taken a nosedive down to 31.

On the whole, home runs have been cut nearly in half. Down 43.7 percent overall, the bandboxes that were making more noise than the House of Blues have fallen eerily silent. [ED: This article takes an odd, overwritten stance against bats that double as rocket launchers.]

The results are fewer games with ludicrous football scores and a lot more randomness in the national tournament. Maybe. Small sample size and all, but when bad pitches are 43.7 more likely to die in an outfielder's glove you get away with a lot more. College baseball is a lot less ruthless now.

If Michigan could get good at baseball again, maybe the national tournament would be less of an insurmountable hill to climb. About that…

May 24th, 2011; Chillicothe, OH, USA; The Mid-American Conference prepares for its 2011 Baseball Tournament with a dinner and awards ceremony for the eight teams in its annual championship tournament.Hire This Flash

You're looking at Michigan's vacant baseball job and these two teams in the CWS and wondering about poaching one of these dudes, KSU's Scott Stricklin (right) looks like a strong, strong candidate.

In eight years at Kent State he's won the MAC four times, won the MAC tourney five times, turned the Golden Flashes into the #3 overall seed last year, has reached two super-regionals and made the CWS this year. At 40 he'd be poised for a long run at Michigan. He came to KSU after a stint at an assistant at Georgia Tech, where he was the recruiting coordinator for a class ranked #1 by the relevant services. He's spent most of the last decade at a school in the same footprint as Michigan and must know the local landscape like the back of his hand. He seems to have all the bases covered. [HIKM]

Potential snags include Stricklin's status as a Kent State alum and possibly having to ward off interest from southern schools. It may be harder to get him than you might expect. Even so this seems like a spot in which using some of Michigan's giant pot of incrementally extracted money would actually pay off. Baseball coaches at MAC schools are not making enough money to turn up their noses at tripling their salary.

As for Stony Brook's coach, Matt Senk has been at Stony Brook for 22(!) years, the first decade of which was spent in D-III. Since moving to America East in 2002 they've had a losing record once, and since 2006 they've finished third or better every year with three NCAA bids. In 2011 they were 42-12 and 22-2 in conference but lost in the tournament and didn't get a bid; this year they are 54-13 (21-3) and scraped their way to the CWS as a four seed.

I'd rather have Stricklin since it's harder to tell if Stony Brook is just a big fish in America East that got fortunate; Stricklin had done better in conference and turned a MAC team into a national seed. While the Seawolves have been dominant in their conference that conference is weak enough to send a 42-12 team to the golf course. Senk's also a bit older. Forty-four isn't ancient, but it is another vote in favor of Stricklin… if Michigan can get him.

[SIDE NOTE: how great are Kent's old-timey uniforms?


Hello. I'm Ty Cobb, minus the racism.]


Michigan Arrogance

June 12th, 2012 at 1:29 PM ^

this KSU guy is the obvious choice. The age difference is infinitecimal, but the recruiting success in the south and midwest is too had to argue against.

has KSU done this with pitching or hitting? I imagine both, but is he developing pitching prospects that are being drafted by the end of their KSU careers?


June 12th, 2012 at 1:40 PM ^

...INDOOR baseball and softball training opportunities? Perhaps one of the next improvements should be an indoor diamond. Keep the footprint down by building down into the earth.

Probably prohibitively expensive, but when you're thinking big about facilities, you've got to think big.


June 12th, 2012 at 1:42 PM ^

Kent State's coach being a KSU alum doesn't necessarily mean he won't jump if offered something better. Our last two football coaches were head coaches at their alma maters but left when seemingly better opportunities arose. Hoke's case probably being the better analogy: he left a MAC school he'd played at for a mid-major that seemed like a better gig, which is exactly what we'd be asking Stricklin to do.

And yes, those KSU jerseys get two thumbs up.


June 12th, 2012 at 1:49 PM ^

Were having some problems with the administration at their alma maters.  Not sure we know if there's any issues at KSU.  But when you have family and such, turning down such a big pay raise is difficult.  The bigger concern might be the one Brian brings up- that he can find equal pay at a program in the south or west that could be an easier rebuilding job and consistent winner. Have to get to him first.


June 12th, 2012 at 1:48 PM ^

He seems like he could do very well here if he could recruit so well at GT and develop players at Kent State.  I believe that Brandon is waiting for Kent State's season to end before contacting him out of politeness to KSU.


June 12th, 2012 at 3:17 PM ^

Not really. I understand what you're getting at, but seriously the talent pool down here is so incredibly deep, and a lot of kids want to stay close to home. Georgia Tech has an excellent reputation for devloping kids and getting them into the MLB, so for a lot of kids it's not a difficult decision.


June 12th, 2012 at 1:53 PM ^

But doesn't the position that the Big Ten/Northern Teams should leave the NCAA look more rabbly now that the CWS has shown that those teams can get into it?

I'm not saying I disagree with the point then...or even now, necessarily (small sample size and all that); I just don't see how the fact that two northern teams have made the World Series means it's a better idea for them to leave the NCAA and it's World Series behind.

MI Expat NY

June 12th, 2012 at 2:23 PM ^

I don't think Stony Brook is a fluke.  If anything, they were criminally underseeded in the tournament.  They had 7 or so players drafted with a bunch going relatively early.  Right in line with the other teams at the CWS.  I guess it could be fortunate in that everything came together for a year or two, but that team is legit.  I do think you're right that Stricklin is the better target, though.

Interesting theory on the "dead bats."  While Stony Brook is extremely talented, I believe the talent is mostly centered around the lineup.  Not sure they would have had the depth to go into BR and beat LSU playing gorilla ball with the old bats.


June 12th, 2012 at 2:28 PM ^

"KSU's Scott Stricklin (right) looks like a strong, strong candidate."

 KSU's Scott Stricklin also looks like John Beilein.


Cleveland Wolverine

June 12th, 2012 at 3:02 PM ^

Stricklin is an excellent coach and recruiter. I'm totally torn as a KSU alum and lifelong wolverine. I'd hate to lose him from my alma mater, but if I have to I'd rather it be to Michigan than to anyone else. In the meantime, on to the CWS- Go Flashes!!


June 12th, 2012 at 3:06 PM ^

Living in kent I'm very familiar with KSU. He would be the better of the choice. While Ohio isnt a huge hotbed for bb talent he has made it work. The last few years there has been a handful of pitchers drafted from KSU. A few who are contributers in the bigs.


June 12th, 2012 at 5:13 PM ^

Probably do help the northern schools. We had a much easier time getting recruits who now throw in the big leagues to come north or stay north than we did getting hitters of big league calibur. My home field in Evanston was by far the toughest park to go yard in that I can recall playing in. New Mexico was by far the easiest. For whatever reason Florida, Alabama, Loyola M. And S. Fla, were also homer friendly.


June 12th, 2012 at 10:00 PM ^

Stricklin is a pipe dream. He could have coached at OSU when their job became vacant. It was even rumored that he took the job for a day or two. He's better off at KSU. Alumnus, family, he's won 1st in his division several years, the program (obviously) is in better shape at the moment. 

But it's fine. He's the reason OSU can't sustain a lot of momentum right now. Ohio isn't a bad baseball state as far as recruiting goes. Kent State has won quite a few recruiting battles with OSU the last few years. 


June 13th, 2012 at 1:23 PM ^

Per the Cleveland Plain Dealer, KSU's recruiting budget was $6,800 and all their players are from Ohio and Pennsylvania.  If Strickland is not interested, he's got a very good long-time pitching coach, Mike Birkbeck, a former MLB player.  However, Birkbeck didn't want the job before they offered it to Strickland and his son is a freshman for KSU.  If neither of them is interested, Akron has the former Kent coach, Rick Rembielak, who started Kent on their run a number of years ago.  He left and was a bust at Wake Forrest, I think, but he was out of his element from a recruiting standpoint in North Carolina.  Regardless, it should be interesting to see what happens.