Kennesaw State defeated Alabama 4-2 on Monday in Tallahassee to become the first team in 21 years to win a baseball regional in its debut.
They will face host Louisville in the Super Regional, a best-of-three series. The Cardinals didn’t drop a game in a regional that included Kentucky, Kansas and Kent State.
The Owls (40-24), using a patchwork pitching lineup necessitated because it was playing its fourth game in four days, got out of several jams to secure the victory. Jordan Hillyer pitched 2 1/3 innings, James Connell followed with 2 2/3 more, Travis Bergen, named the region’s most outstanding player, allowed one hit in 3 1/3 and Justin McCalvin wiggled out of a jam in the ninth to finish the game.
Jacob Bruce went 2-for-3 with the go-ahead RBI in the seventh, Max Pentecost went 1-for-3 with an RBI and Alex Liquori went for 1-for-3 with a run scored to lead Kennesaw State’s hitters.
It was the Owls, however, that wasted their first chance.
With the bases loaded in the second inning, Brennan Morgan was thrown out at home. The Owls pushed a run across a batter later on a sacrifice fly by Kal Simmons, which scored Liquori.
Alabama wasted the bases loaded in the third. Three of the first four batters walked, but Connell struck out Wade Wass and got Austen Smith to pop out to end the threat.
The Tide put two more baserunners on in the next inning but Connell wiggled out of the jam again.
After stranding seven baserunners through the first four innings, Alabama broke through in the fifth. Georgie Salem singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a ground out by Ben Moore. Wass drove Salem home with a single up the middle. Wass advanced to third on a balk by Connell.
Smith followed with a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Wass and gave Alabama a 2-1 lead.
It didn’t take long for Kennesaw State to respond.
Cornell Nixon walked to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Simmons laid down a sacrifice bunt. Nixon reached second and tried to take third, but was thrown out. The TV replays showed he was safe. Bruce laced a two-out double down the right-field line. Pentecost hit a double down the left-field line to drive in Bruce and tie the game, 2-2.
Matt Bahnick singled for Kennesaw State in the seventh inning. Nixon bunted Jeremy Howell, pinch-running for Bahnick, to second. With two outs, Bruce slammed a double off the right-field wall to score Howell and give the Owls a 3-2 lead.
Kennesaw State made it 4-2 in the eighth on an RBI single by Howell, which scored Chris McGowan, who led the inning with a single.