Northern Illinois baseball coach Ed Mathey has been tuning into every Kent State game during the Golden Flashes' run to the College World Series, whether it's through TV or Gametracker.
Kent State opens up play at the CWS in Omaha, Neb. Saturday at 4 p.m., when the Golden Flashes will take on Arkansas.
Mathey said Kent State's appearance in Omaha can do nothing but help the Mid-American Conference as a whole. The Golden Flashes are the first MAC team to compete at the College World Series since 1976. That season, Eastern Michigan made the final before losing to Arizona, 7-1.
"I think people will see that we're a very competitive conference," Mathey said. "Obviously Kent State was the best in the league this year, but it's been a competitive conference. I think the name-brand recognition is going to help."
College baseball is a sport where teams in the northern part of the country have a disadvantage. That's something that could be changing.
Stony Brook University out of Long Island also made the field. In 2006 and 2007, Oregon State won back-to-back national championships.
The NCAA instituted a mandatory start date — which is the second or third weekend in Februrary depending on the start of the College World Series, in 2008. Last season, college baseball was introduced to BBCOR bats, which have cut down offense.
To Mathey, both changes have helped northern baseball programs. He said the BBCOR bats have helped teams in cold-weather climates develop pitching better.
"It's a situation that you're seeing some teams recognize [the changes] and some universities recognize it, and I think they're resourcing their programs to go out and be more competitive as well," Mathey said, "and I think they're seeing benefits from that, so hopefully it's a great trend."