The dream of playing Division I baseball evolved into reality for St. Clairsville's Dan Slavik.
Signing with Kent State two years ago resulted in a number of high-fives and hugs among Slavik, family members and his ex-Red Devil teammates.
Two seasons into his tenure as a relief pitcher for the Golden Flashes, the experience has suddenly become totally surreal.
"You can see the ball park from here. It's a great view." Slavik said over the phone gazing out his hotel window in Omaha.
The facility he's referring to is the $200 million TD Ameritrade Park, site of this weekend's College World Series.
Over the winter in northeastern Ohio, they talked about competing for a Mid American Conference title with Slavik entering his sophomore campaign.
He had posted a 2-1 mound mark to go with a 3.80 ERA, working 22.3 innings as a freshman where the transition was dramatic.
"At this level, everyone (you face) was a star in high school. There's very little margin for error (at Division I)."
Slavik's point was further driven home this spring as he took a step back. "It definitely wasn't what I was hoping for but I have two full seasons ahead," he indicated.
On the plus side, Slavik is maintaining a 3.6 GPA majoring in pre-med. Makes for a sunny outlook.
If not particularly preferential, riding the pines never felt so good during Kent's improbable postseason journey to Omaha.
"We were pretty hard hit by graduation last season," he noted after four Flashes were selected in the Major League Draft.
"I don't know we were talking (Omaha) at the start of this season but it's amazing how things have fallen into place."
Like a 21-game win streak the Flashes were riding prior to falling in Game 2 in Oregon. Their series opener is Saturday afternoon (5:00) against Arkansas.
"They say you need some lucky breaks and fortunate bounces in this game. We've been getting our share, so far."
Kent's historic 21-inning first round victory over Kentucky in the Gary (Ind.) Regional first got the nation's attention.
"Had we gone much further, maybe I would have started throwing in the bullpen," Slavik laughed.
After stopping Purdue and UK again to complete a 3-0 sweep, Kent was sent Eugene, Oregon, where the Flashes outlasted a favored Ducks' club in Super Regional play.
Ordinarily, coach Scott Stricklin's Flashes would be the talk of Omaha. However, they've been joined by another upstart, Stoney Brook (N.Y.) which opens series play this evening.
"We're just riding this thing out as far as it'll take us," Slavik disclosed. "We definitely feel we belong. Now, it's just a matter of just executing on the field."
DAN'S family has made the trip to Nebraska, making the long journey by car. His father, Joe, is another ex-St. C. mound ace who also pitched in the MAC at Eastern Michigan...
Kent State's expected starting pitcher Saturday, junior southpaw David Starn, owns an 11-3 record with a 2.21 earned run average. Starn has recorded 123 strikeouts in 114 innings. His mother, Vicki, has several local eastern Ohio ties.....
KENT State grad and current Cleveland Brown Josh Cribbs purchased 53 tickets and charted a bus to transport Golden Flashes fans to Omaha. All seats were quickly filled....
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