Patience paid off for Kent State's Cody Koch, who has found a home in the middle of the Golden Flashes' batting order.
Patience has paid off for Kent State senior first baseman Cody Koch.
The former Sandusky Perkins standout began his college baseball career as a walk-on at the University of Cincinnati, but when that path ran into a dead end, he transferred to Kent State University.
Now, four years later, Koch is firmly entrenched in the middle batting order for the Golden Flashes, who won the 2014 Mid-American Conference Baseball Tournament with a 3-0 victory over Akron last Sunday and claimed the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Regional Tournament, where they will face Louisville in the first round Friday night.
"I've been blessed with everything that I've gone through," Koch said. "To actually win a ring here has been great. I don't remember what we got in Legion, medals. They're just hanging on my wall. This one, I actually show to people. People hear about it.
"I went down to Cincinnati just to try and walk on because no one really recruited me out of high school. Once I didn't make that, I just played club, came back to Legion ball for another year and (former Kent State coach Scott) Stricklin saw me play two games, and actually saw me play one of the hottest tournaments I had in the summer. So, that got me as a preferred walk-on here, and I just continued to get better and wait for my moment."
While his journey to Kent State was not typical, Koch learned some things along that way that have made him a better baseball player.
"Freshman year, I actually got a chance to start because our starting first baseman was really struggling," Koch recalled. "I just wasn't ready for that level yet because I put too much pressure on myself.
"As the year went on, I started figuring things out with my swing and my timing. I continued that through summer ball and into the next years. I had to play behind George Roberts, who's playing in the minor leagues now. Once I got my time, I let it all hang out.
"The biggest thing was, I actually started to relax at the plate. I'm not freaking out, worrying about what I did as a result. If I put a good swing on the ball, I wasn't worried about it, and I went out and played defense. The hits just started falling."
The hits have kept falling for Koch, who was honored as the Most Valuable Player of the MAC Tournament, despite being left off the All-MAC First Team after the regular season.
In 57 starts, Koch hit .330 with 72 hits, 12 doubles, seven home runs and a team-best 56 runs batted in. Eight of those hits, and four of those RBI, came in the MAC Tournament.
"I've never seen a guy take over the game like he did," first-year Kent State coach Jeff Duncan said. "All season long, he is so consistent. It's unbelievable, his focus, what he has and brings to this game.
"Being an older guy, he really hadn't had a whole lot of experience. He hasn't really played a whole lot, but he was huge for our success this year. Not making the All-MAC team, I thought he got snubbed a little bit, and we kind of whispered in his ear to be the MVP of the tournament and show them. Sure enough, he did."
And it was moments like Sunday in the MAC Championship Game that make Koch glad he stayed at Kent State despite not playing early in his career. It is also what drives him for more success as his college career winds to a close in the NCAA Tournament.
"Every time we had an off day, I was like, 'What would I do if I didn't have baseball?'" Koch said. "That's just a really boring life. All of it (is surreal). I still can't believe it, and I don't know what to say now.
"It feels incredible. It's the first year I actually got to play every day. To go out and do something like this puts the cap on the year and my career. Wherever they send us, we're going to keep competing and hopefully, keep it going."