It was one of the most shocking journeys in recent memory.
A certain mid-major from Portage County rocked the college baseball world when it knocked out juggernaut after juggernaut to reach the second round of the College World Series.
One young man followed every pitch during Kent State University’s amazing run. Seven years later, that same young man still bleeds navy blue and gold.
And his enthusiasm for his favorite team won’t be diminished anytime soon.
That’s because Jake Reifsnyder is now a Golden Flash.
The 2019 Tallmadge graduate recently signed a national letter of intent to continue his academic and baseball careers at Kent State, which advanced to the 2012 College World Series.
The Flashes hope to recapture their World Series’ magic with Reifsnyder on their roster. Kent State finished 30-24 in 2019 after losing both of its games in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
"I have been following the program since 2012," said Reifsnyder, who is undecided about his major. "Kent was the first one to contact me. It’s where I always wanted to go."
Reifsnyder, who also considered playing for Heidelberg University in Tiffin, was a three-year starter for the Blue Devils.
He played third base when Tallmadge reached the Division II state semifinals last year. He also patrolled the hot corner when the Blue Devils won the Division II state championship in 2017.
Reifsnyder really blossomed this spring.
Although he was a starter the previous two years, Reifsnyder had very few at bats.
His plate appearances increased dramatically this spring.
Reifsnyder moved to shortstop and was a regular in the middle of the Blue Devils’ batting order.
He didn’t look back.
Reifsnyder led the team with a .373 batting average and finished with 28 hits, 16 runs scored and 13 RBIs. He also posted a 3-1 record with 25 strikeouts on the mound.
As a result of Reifsnyder’s versatility, the Blue Devils continued their extraordinary success.
Despite losing 10 seniors to graduation, Tallmadge qualified for the regional competition for the third consecutive year.
"Jake started off OK and then was one of our top hitters in the back end of the season," Blue Devils head coach Kenny Linn said. "He really played well at shortstop. He’s as tough as nails."
Reifsnyder certainly has plenty of fond memories of his playing days at Tallmadge. But it wasn’t easy.
Due to Tallmadge’s abundance of talent, Reifsnyder experienced only one season as a full-time starter.
"It had some ups and downs, but it ended on a good note," he said. "Prior to this year, it was frustrating, for sure. We had several kids go on to play Division I ball. That’s just how it works out."
Reifsnyder is a perfect example of why one should not judge a book by its cover. A number of his former teammates were considerably taller and thicker than the slick-fielding infielder.
But don’t be fooled by Reifsnyder’s rather diminutive stature.
Thanks to his freakish athleticism, Reifsnyder was an absolute menace to both opposing pitchers and hitters.
"He has all the athletic tools," Linn said. "He played bigger than he was. He plays with all heart and thinks the game extremely well."
Reifsnyder is currently playing for his summer baseball team, the Rawlings Diamond Boys Select squad, which is based in Hudson.
Once his summer season ends, he’ll continue to carry a bat and glove for at least another four years.
And maybe, just maybe, those pieces of equipment will come in handy for a certain trip to Omaha, Nebraska.
That would be the College World Series.
"My dad said I always had a bat in my hands," Refisnyder said. "I fell in love with baseball. I’m glad my patience paid off."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.