Kent State University first baseman George Roberts will enjoy a homecoming during a road game today in University Park.
The Forest Hills High School graduate and former AAABA League MVP with Delweld will be part of the Golden Flashes nonconference game against Penn State at Medlar Field. The Big Ten Network will broadcast the 7 p.m. contest.
“It’s definitely fun going to Penn State to play,” said Roberts, a senior who is the returning Mid-American Conference (MAC) Player of the Year. “They have a nice stadium and a nice atmosphere for baseball.”
Plus, Roberts will probably attract a small legion of fans from the Johnstown area.
“A lot of my family will come up and a lot of my friends probably will come up,” he said. “Buddies of mine who go to Penn State will be there. A lot of people watch. It’s a fun game.”
Roberts overcame an early season hamate bone (wrist) injury that required surgery.
Since his return in mid-March, Roberts has started 16 games and is batting .389 with 21 hits, nine runs, four doubles, a triple and a homer. He’s got a .556 slugging percentage.
Not bad considering the timeframe for his return potentially had Roberts back in the lineup later this month.
“It wasn’t fun. I broke a bone in my second hamate during an at-bat against Virginia Tech the first weekend,” Roberts said. “I got one more at-bat, then I came out. I got an X-ray. At first, it was negative, but I had another X-ray and they saw something. They sent me for a MRI.”
Roberts said he had surgery on Feb. 22.
“I was supposed to be out four to eight weeks,” he said. “I came back in three. It’s still a little sore, but it’s a lot better to get in there rather than to sit there and watch the (road) games on a computer.”
Roberts returned to the lineup March 15 at Memphis and promptly had a run-scoring hit.
The former Rangers standout had a pair of doubles and drove in two runs as Kent State (14-15) beat Penn State (6-21) last Wednesday at Schoonover Stadium.
Three Golden Flashes hurlers combined to one-hit the Lions.
He hopes the Golden Flashes have similar success tonight against the Nittany Lions, who snapped a 13-game losing skid with an 11-3 win over Wright State on Sunday.
“They beat us twice last year. I don’t know if they had ever beaten us twice in a row in the same year,” Roberts said. “We played them last week and we beat them 10-0. They’re always tough. It’s always a good game and always competitive.”
Roberts and Kent State are hoping to rekindle some of the magic from a season ago, when the Golden Flashes won a school-record 47 games and made their first appearances in a NCAA Super Regional and the College World Series.
Along the way, Kent State won the MAC, a regional and a super regional. The Golden Flashes edged top-ranked Florida 5-4 in the CWS before the historic run ended in a 4-1 loss to second-ranked South Carolina.
Roberts took Most Outstanding Player honors at the Oregon Regional.
He played a key role in a 21-inning regional win over Kentucky in which Roberts had five hits, a pair of doubles, two RBI and was involved in 23 put outs.
This season, Kent State has been up and down. A 10-3 win over Ohio University on Sunday provided a lift after the Flashes had split the first two games of the series, including a disappointing 6-3 loss on Saturday.
“We’ve been a little bit inconsistent,” Roberts said. “We looked the best we looked all year against Penn State. That Friday we were lucky (in a 6-5 win over Ohio). Saturday, we didn’t look so good against Ohio. Sunday, we played well.
“Our pitching is coming around. Our hitting and defense is coming around. We just have to put it all together and stay consistent.”
Roberts has been a mainstay at Kent, starting 11 games as a freshman and building his resume since then.
He’s heard speculation about where he might land in the Major League Baseball’s June draft. For now, he puts such talk in the background.
“I don’t think about the draft too much,” Roberts said. “I’ve had some letters from some major league teams. I’m hoping to finish up strong and hope we have as much success as we did last year. That’s the main thing.
“Whatever happens, happens. I definitely want to play pro ball but right now I’m not too focused on that stuff. I’m focused on us finishing strong.”
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