The Kent State University baseball team made it to Omaha, Neb., home of College World Series. It was the first appearance in the history of the program.
In fact, it’s the first time the team has made it past the regional level.
After a slow start to the season, the Golden Flashes got hot and won 21 games in a row, the longest winning streak in college baseball. That ended in their second game of the super regionals when the University of Oregon won, but it made for an even more exciting walk-off single in the ninth inning to win the series and head to the world series, where they would beat Florida State University, the No. 1 team in the nation.
Perhaps the best part of this Cinderella story is that the 34-player roster is that 27 of them are from Ohio, including Strongsville’s own Tyler Skulina and Tim Faix.
Skulina, 20, and Faix, 19, are both pitchers who graduated from Walsh Jesuit High School graduates.
Strongsville Patch: Did you know each other?
Faix: Yeah, we all kind of knew each other. Tyler was enrolled. There’s also (pitcher) David Starn. When I was a freshman, David was a senior.
Strongsville Patch: What’s the first memory you have of baseball?
Skulina: Probably playing catch with my dad when I was little. He was always there and always asked me if I wanted to play catch. He was just always into sports and so was I.
Faix: Probably playing T-ball when I was 5 years old.
Strongsville Patch: Do you play any baseball video games?
Skulina: No, not really.
Faix: Yes. I play MLB’s 2K12 series and The Show series.
Are you better on video games or the real game?
Faix: I don’t know; that’s a tough question.
Strongsville Patch: Do you have any game day preparations or superstitions?
Skulina: No, no superstitions at all.
Faix: I always get my pregame shower in and I always tie my left shoe before my right shoe. (He’s left handed.)
Strongsville Patch: Was there ever a time you wondered whether you should play or a time where it might’ve been easier to quit?
Skulina: No, not really. I performed really well in high school, so I knew I had a chance to play college and hopefully pro.
Faix: I’ve always wanted to play baseball. It’s one of my biggest passions, so I’ve always wanted to play the game as long as I can.
Strongsville Patch: What has the Golden Flashes journey been like for you?
Skulina: It’s been amazing. It’s my first year a part of it; it was a great year to be a part of it. We’ve never gone to Omaha ever so, it was just a great year overall.
Faix: Unbelievable, really no word to describe it. It’s just been unreal. I think it’s always our dream to go to the College World Series but actually getting there? I think it’s all of our dreams.
Strongsville Patch: Can you tell me about the support you’ve received from the community and what it has meant to you?
Skulina: It’s been amazing, almost overwhelming. Everybody I talked to said “Oh yeah, we’re watching the game, we saw you throw” even miles away, my grandparents (in Fremont and North Ridgeville) and their friends and everybody. It’s just been non-stop support from everybody. It’s been tremendous.
Faix: It’s meant a lot. Coach Stricklin said it during the presentation. We had been gone for so long we really didn’t know what it was like around here. When we got back, just seeing how many people were waiting for us, just to greet us when we got off the bus (last) Thursday night that was just unbelievable. Tonight as well, just getting all that support from friends and family. I’ve just been getting so many text messages and calls, so it’s been really cool.
Strongsville Patch: Is there a story from this season you might one day tell your kids?
Skulina: Probably everything from the MAC championship on to Omaha. Just the way we went, the way we won, how close the games were and how our team stuck together by each other’s side.
Faix: That 21-inning game against Kentucky to open up the regional, that’s something I’m always going to remember. I’m really glad to be a part of and be able to share that story down the road with grandkids and everything.
Strongsville Patch: Do you plan to pursue playing baseball professionally?
Faix: That’s what I’m working towards. I’m hoping. That’s my goal.