Friday, May 25, 2012

Owls Add to Baseball History at A-Sun Championship

Two years stick out in the Kennesaw State annals; 1994 and 1996.

Those are the years that Head Coach Mike Sansing and the Owls first won the NAIA National Championship and followed with the NCAA Division II title.

The Owls are looking to add to their mantle with an appearance in the NCAA Regionals and a 2012 Atlantic Sun Baseball Championship trophy.

In their first appearance in the A-Sun Championship, the Owls went 0-2 in 2011 with losses to Mercer and Belmont and debuted the 2012 tournament with a 12-4 loss to FGCU. The Owls rebounded with a 3-1 win vs. the defending champion Bruins for the program’s first Division I postseason win.

Kennesaw State Head Coach Mike Sansing – in his 21st season as the Owls leader – downplayed the importance of the win and spoke more to the team’s and program’s goal.

“The win on Thursday was important but it wasn’t something we were striving for because our goal is to make it to regionals and it was just a step we had to take to get there. It wasn’t as much as thinking about the first win and celebrating it but more of it helping us get through the tournament and winning.”

KSU began its transition from Division II to D-I in 2006 with a 24-23 overall record and 12-18 in Atlantic Sun play. Over the next three seasons, the Owls climbed up the A-Sun standings to a runner-up finish in the 2008 and 2009 regular seasons, but had to sit out the conference tournament due to NCAA D-I Reclassification Rules. The Owls first appeared in the conference championship until the 2011 season when Sansing and his crew finished 18-11 in league game and earned the three seed.

“The reclassification period was a difficult time because we weren’t able to get to the postseason and the fact we had been to so many prior to that. We worked through that time and now it’s good to look at where we are now.”

Helping Sansing’s cause this year is a collection of nine seniors to go along a talented freshman crew, which features two A-Sun All-Freshman performers—Max Pentecost and Justin McCalvin.

“It’s a senior group of guys, but our captains are two juniors with Peyton Hart and Ronnie Freeman,” Sansing said of his junior leaders. “However, they are guys that have been in our program for a few years and are leaders on our squad so they act like seniors.”

Despite the senior-laden group of Owls it was the freshmen honorees that stole the show. McCalvin tossed four innings of scoreless relief, while Pentecost delivered the knockout punch with a bases-clearing three-RBI double in the eighth inning.

“Max has caught for us some this year and been our designated hitter throughout the tournament and he has produced big hits for us this year. You have to look at that hit and it’s definitely the biggest one he has had.”

With a steady mix of leaders and break-through freshmen, Kennesaw State can reach their goal of a regional as quickly as two more wins in the A-Sun Championship.

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