College World Series: Former Grand Lake Mariner plays through grief in Omaha


OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — 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 and former Grand Lake Mariner 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,” coach Scott Stricklin said. “I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for Jason.”

Bagoly, who played for the Grand Lake Mariners last summer in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League,  flew back to Ohio early Tuesday for the Wednesday funeral, but not before making important contributions in a 5-4 win over Florida on Monday. The Flashes play South Carolina on Wednesday in an elimination game. It wasn’t known whether Bagoly would be back.

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 doubling 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.”

Starting catcher David Lyon said no one was happier for Bagoly than Bagoly’s 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.”

Bagoly hit .315 with four home runs and 21 RBIs last summer for Grand Lake and was named an GLSCL All-Star.