FT. MYERS, Fla. (May 21, 2014) – Kennesaw State scored seven unanswered runs – capped off by Brennan Morgan’s walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 10th – and the third-seeded Owls rallied past No. 6 seed ETSU, 11-7, in the first game of the Atlantic Sun Championship Wednesday at FGCU’s Swanson Stadium.
The Bucs, who fell behind early, continued to battle back and eventually led 7-4 heading into the bottom of the eighth. However, the Owls plated three runs in the inning – and after A-Sun Player of the Year Max Pentecost led off the bottom of the 10th with a triple down the line in right – ETSU intentionally walked the next two hitters to load the bases. After the Bucs made some defensive moves, Brennan took the second pitch he saw from Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) over the left field walk for the walk-off slam.
ETSU had four players register multi-hit games as Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) both finished with three hits each, while Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) and Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) added a pair of base knocks as well. York went 3-for-4 with three runs, while Cook was 3-for-5 with two RBI. Taylor drove in three runs, and Freeman and Matt Sorrow (Griffin, Ga.) accounted for the other RBIs. Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) extended his streak of reaching base safely to 18 straight games by reaching on a single up the middle and scored a run in the sixth.
The Blue and Gold scripted out their rotation as junior right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) got the start and allowed three runs on six hits in four innings of work, before turning the ball over to Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.) in the fifth. The freshman southpaw issued one unearned run and struck out two in two innings. From there, Freeman worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning, but was roughed up for three runs on four hits in the eighth, and Chesney suffered the loss (4-3) after surrendering the walk-off grand slam in the tenth.
With the loss, the Bucs – who rattled off four straight wins to capture their first-ever A-Sun Championship title last year – face an elimination game Thursday morning. ETSU takes on the loser of No. 2 Mercer/No. 7 Stetson (currently in progress.) at 10 a.m.
ETSU dropped to 26-29 following the setback, while Kennesaw State – who has won 20 of their last 21 games – improved to 34-21.
Both teams responded to each other’s challenges early on as the Owls scored two runs in the second, but the Bucs quickly evened the game at two in the third. With one out, York recorded the first of his three hits by ripping a single to left and moved to third on Sorrow’s double to center. Taylor drove in the first run of the game with an RBI groundout to second and Sorrow came home on Cook’s two-out bloop single to left.
Kennesaw State regained a 3-2 lead in the fourth when Bo Way led off the inning with a double and scored on Morgan’s RBI single up the middle.
Again, the Blue and Gold answered with a three-run fifth to take their first lead of the game, 5-3. The first four ETSU hitters reached to start the inning as York led off with a double to right and moved to third when Sorrow was safe on a fielder’s choice sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher. Following the botched play by KSU, Taylor tied the game at three with an RBI double and Cook came through with an RBI single in the next at-bat to put the Bucs ahead. Freeman finished the scoring as his sac-fly RBI to center brought in Taylor, giving ETSU a two-run cushion.
The Owls pulled a run closer by scratching across an unearned run in the bottom of the inning, while the Blue and Gold followed suit in the eighth when York singled through the left side and came in on a throwing error by second baseman Cornell Nixon, making it a 7-4 ballgame.
Unfortunately, things went south in a hurry in the bottom half of the frame as the first three Kennesaw hitters led off the inning with hits and cut its deficit to one when Chris McGowan drove home a pair with a double to left. McGowan went to third on a sac-bunt from Morgan and eventually crossed the plate on Matt Bahnick’s one-out RBI single to the game at seven.
ETSU threatened in the ninth but left the bases loaded. Cook led off with an infield single and moved to second when Freeman was given the intentional walk. Following a sac-bunt from Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.), the Bucs had runners in scoring position with only one out but couldn’t register the key hit. Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.) fouled out to third – and after Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) was given a free pass – pinch hitter Andrew Lasure (Stanford, Ky.) tapped into an inning-ending groundout to second.
Chesney retired the Owls in order in the bottom of the ninth, but the Blue and Gold had nothing going in the tenth, which led to the walk-off heroics by Morgan in the bottom of the inning, giving Kennesaw State its second straight walk-off win over the Bucs.
Morgan was a perfect 4-for-4 with two runs and five RBI, while Bo Way also was 4-for-4 with four runs for the Owls. Morgan and Way combined for eight of Kennesaw State’s 15 runs.
First team all-conference selection Just McCalvin earned the win (4-3) after pitching two scoreless innings.
The Owls now await the winner of Mercer/Stetson and play at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
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