Six Gwinnett area players have a direct part in Kennesaw State’s breakthrough baseball season.
The Owls play top seed Louisville this week in the NCAA Super Regional after a surprising run to an NCAA Regional title, emerging from a four-team field that also featured Alabama, Florida State and Georgia Southern. They clinched the Super Regional trip Monday with a 4-2 win over Alabama.
Kennesaw State is the first team since 1993 to win an NCAA regional in its first-ever appearance.
“I am proud of our guys,” Kennesaw State head coach Mike Sansing said after Monday’s win over Alabama. “It was an unbelievable effort the whole time, not just (Monday). But we came back after (Sunday) night and it was rough. I’m just proud of these guys, I love them all. I just want to thank everybody for believing in our program. It was just a great experience for me and I’m happy for them and our university.”
Collins Hill grad Chris McGowan, a Kennesaw State junior, scored a ninth-inning insurance run in the victory over Alabama. He has a .271 batting average with four home runs and 44 RBIs, which ranks second on the team.
The Owls’ roster also includes three pitchers from Gwinnett — sophomore Jordan Hillyer and two freshmen from Grayson, Chris Erwin and Taylor Allum (who hasn’t pitched this season).
Hillyer, a Hebron Christian grad, has a team-high 17 starts with a 7-3 record and a 3.55 ERA. He has 73 strikeouts in 96 1/3 innings.
Erwin has a 3-1 record and a 3.16 ERA in 15 appearances, eight of those starts. He also is 7-for-21 (.333) with four RBIs offensively.
Winder-Barrow grads Max Pentecost and Dylan Ivey also play for the Owls. Pentecost, a junior catcher, is the team’s top hitter with a .423 average, nine homers and 58 RBIs.
That group’s next mission begins Friday at Louisville with a 6:30 p.m. Game 1 televised by ESPNU. Game 2, at 7 p.m. Saturday, also is an ESPNU broadcast.
Should a Game 3 be necessary in the series, it would be Sunday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. Win or lose, this season already has given Kennesaw State’s baseball program big national exposure.
“We won as an NAIA program in ’94 and I told the guys (Monday), that was huge,” Sansing said. “In ’96 we won a (NCAA) Division II National Championship, and that was huge. As a team in the ‘90s as Division II, that was huge. But I think this is going to put more of a stamp on Kennesaw State baseball. It’s been a long process for sure, the reclassification, but it’s great to be here today and where we are.”