On Feb. 20, 2005, the Kent State baseball team defeated Louisville 8-3. It was a chilly and rainy Sunday, not ideal baseball conditions, yet a strong starting pitching performance and a pair of three-hit games led the Golden Flashes to victory, the first of their season and the first of Scott Stricklin’s coaching career.
14 years and one week later, Stricklin notched career win No. 500 with Georgia’s 11-1 victory over Kennesaw State on Wednesday.
“I feel old,” Stricklin said with a chuckle. “Just fortunate to be able to coach with the guys that I’ve coached with, both at Kent State and here at Georgia.”
His 500th win had some parallels to his first. Bulldog starter C.J. Smith went five strong innings on the mound, giving up no runs on three hits and Aaron Schunk turned in a three-hit night.
“When I started coaching, I never thought I could last this long,” Stricklin said. “You never know in this profession. [500 wins is] thrilling and kind of snuck up on me. I didn’t know it until Monday.”
Five Kennesaw State errors and nine hits for the Bulldogs tallied 11 total runs and a comfortable bounce-back. It was a rebound from an embarrassing loss to LIU Brooklyn on Tuesday that postponed Stricklin’s 500th victory an extra day.
“To not get it yesterday kind of hurt,” Stricklin said. “But I’m glad we bounced back and got it today.”
After the game ended, the Bulldog team grabbed a cooler full of ice and dumped it all over their coach, a celebratory shower for his milestone victory. Smith said the team knew it would be Stricklin’s 500th win entering the game.
“It’s fantastic, I love it.” Smith said. “I absolutely love it, I wouldn’t have chosen anywhere else to go. [Stricklin’s] one of the big reasons I chose to come to Georgia.”
For Stricklin, Athens is in his blood. He grew up in Athens, Ohio, and attended Athens High School before playing collegiately at Kent State. Stricklin played three seasons at Kent State under current Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall where he was twice named an All-Conference catcher.
In 2005, Stricklin returned to Kent State to become the 16th head coach in school history.
Strickin’s nine-year tenure at his alma mater put him on a quick path to 500 wins. In his nine seasons at the helm of the Golden Flashes, Stricklin amassed an even 350 victories. During his reign, Kent State was a five-time regular-season MAC champion and also took home five MAC tournament titles.
For his efforts, Stricklin was named MAC Coach of the Year three times.
In 2012, Stricklin coached Kent State to its most successful season in school history. The Golden Flashes ended the season at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. It was a 47-win season that included a 21-game win streaking the middle all culminating with the only CWS appearance in school history.
However, after coming to Georgia in 2014, Stricklin has had a more tumultuous road to his 150 wins as a Bulldog. In five completed seasons, Georgia finished under .500 every year until 2018. Georgia didn’t eclipse the 27-win mark until last season, when the Bulldogs had their best season to date under Stricklin.
In 2018, Georgia finished 39-21, and hosted an NCAA regional as the No. 8 national seed. However, the Bulldogs ultimately came up short at home and were one win shy of advancing to the super regionals.
Now, with a 8-1 start to 2019, both Stricklin and the players have their eyes set on a stronger finish than a year ago.
“We were better, still some work to go,” Stricklin said. “We certainly weren’t perfect and I’m still yet to coach that perfect game. There’s always something to work on.”