OMAHA, Neb. - The joy Kent State players and coaches have derived from the program's first College World Series appearance has been diminished since they arrived because of the unexpected death of backup catcher Jason Bagoly's mother.
Cheryl McHenry died unexpectedly at age 50 last Thursday, the day after the Golden Flashes arrived in Omaha.
"This has been a difficult few days for our program," Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. "I can't even imagine what it's been like for Jason."
Bagoly flew back to Ohio early Tuesday for his mother's funeral today, but not before making important contributions in a 5-4 win over Florida on Monday. The Flashes play South Carolina on today in an elimination game. It wasn't known Tuesday whether Bagoly would be back.
Bagoly is a junior first baseman and catcher from?Austintown and a Fitch High School graduate. Bagoly was traveling Tuesday and could not be reached for comment, but he told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer after Monday's game that he wanted to be with his "second family" in Omaha while funeral arrangements were being made.
"I wanted to be here with the people who make me happy, playing the sport that makes me happy," Bagoly told the newspaper.
Before Monday, Bagoly hadn't been in a game since May 24. Stricklin said he had a hunch Bagoly, batting .264 for the season, could help out against the Gators and put him in the lineup as designated hitter.
"We talked about it as a staff and went back and forth," Stricklin said. "You think about the ramifications if he has a bad game, if he gets out there and plays and things go wrong."
Bagoly singled and scored the Flashes' first run in the second inning, moved over runners in the fifth inning with his first bunt since high school and doubled in the seventh.
"I think that shows you what kind of kid he is and how tough he is," Stricklin said. "It gave our team a lift. .. I think he needed that. I think his family needed that. I'm just really proud that he's on our team."
Bagoly told The Plain?Dealer he sought help from his mother during the game.
"I was pretty locked into the game," he said. "But when I got nervous I found myself saying, 'Come on Mom, I need some strength.' It helped me. It really did. I found some extra confidence, just because I knew she was here."
Kent State catcher David Lyon said no one was happier for Bagoly than his teammates.
"Jason's a fighter," Lyon said. "If he went back-to-back strikeouts, nothing would have changed. We're part of his family. We're always behind him and he knows that, and that helped him battle and succeed the way he did."