Kennesaw, GA - The Kennesaw State baseball program split a pair of Atlantic Sun Conference games on Saturday (April 18) afternoon against the visiting Eagles of Florida Golf Coast University. The Owls took the first game of the day, 5-0, before dropping the second game of the twinbill in extra innings by a score of 6-5 at Stillwell Stadium.
With the split, KSU's record now sits at 21-18 overall and 6-5 in A-Sun play. FGCU now sits with an overall record over 20-19-1 record and 7-4 in conference action.
GAME 1: FGCU 0, Kennesaw State 5
Game one lived up to a hyped pitching matchup entering the weekend, as Kennesaw State's Jordan Hillyer outdueled FGCU's Michael Murray to help the Owls earn a 5-0 victory in the series opener.
Entering the weekend, Hillyer and Murray were ranked first and second, respectively, with 65 and 64 strikeouts in the Atlantic Sun and delivered a masterful showing of pitching throughout the first game on Saturday.
Hillyer (4-3), who earned his fourth win of the season, tossed his second complete game of the season, allowing no runs on just three hits in a gutsy performance against the Eagles. The right-handed pitcher from Dacula, Georgia struck out four on the day and forced 11 ground outs in the winning effort.
"Hillyer threw extremely well in game one. He was able to close it down for us with a lead and he was great today," head coach Mike Sansing said.
On the other side of the mound, Murray –who is reigning A-Sun Pitcher of the Year—matched Hillyer step-for-step throughout the game, allowing five runs (four earned) on just five hits while striking out seven batters over 7.1 innings. Murray struck out three of his first six batters he faced, and tossed five scoreless innings during his time on the bump.
After Hillyer and Murray traded scoreless innings in the first and second, the Owls jumped on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third and never looked back. After a leadoff single to center field from Taylor Allum, back-to-back sacrifice bunts led to an RBI sacrifice fly off the bat of Corey Greeson. Grant Williams then followed with an RBI single up the middle to give KSU an early 2-0 lead.
Hillyer proved beneficiary of the run support, as he faced five batters over the minimum over the duration of the ballgame. The righthander worked four 1-2-3 innings, and retired nine of his first 11 batters in the contest.
"Jordan [Hillyer] has been able to set the tone for us this season. He has been very consistent and it was great to see him throw a strong game today," Sansing said.
Leading by two entering the bottom of the seventh, Kennesaw State extended its lead with a two-run homer off the bat of Chris Erwin. Erwin finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBI and one run scored to lead the Owls' offense.
KSU added one insurance run in the bottom of the eighth with a sacrifice fly ball off the bat of Brennan Morgan. Morgan finished the game 1-for-2 with one RBI and one run scored.
For the game, Kennesaw State totaled five sacrifice bunts, four singles, one double and a home run to back Hillyer's strong outing on the mound.
For Hillyer, the three-hit, complete game, shutout marked his second of the season. In fact, the junior has tossed at least 8.0 innings in four of his last six starts, dating back to March 14 against Wintrop.
GAME 2: FGCU 6, Kennesaw State 5 – 10 innings
FGCU scored four runs over the final three innings to complete a 6-5 come-from-behind win over Kennesaw State in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, earning an A-Sun twinbill split on the day.
KSU got another strong effort on the mound from its starting pitcher, as Travis Bergen allowed three runs (two earned) on nine hits to the Eagles' potent offense. The left-handed pitcher also struck out four on the day over 8.0 innings of work on the bump, earning a no decision for the day.
FGCU countered with Brady Anderson, who entered the game with a perfect 4-0 record, as the right-hander allowed five runs (three earned) on eight hits over 6.1 innings.
Both teams wasted no time and scored a combined six runs over the first three innings of play. After FGCU plated the game's first run in the top of the first, the Owls answered by sending eight batters to the dish in the bottom half, scoring three runs on four hits.
The inning was highlighted by a two-run RBI double off the bat of Chris McGowan. The senior–who entered the day on a 17-game hitting streak—, and finished game one 1-for-4, extended his hitting streak to 19 games with the double in the first. Erwin also recorded an RBI single in the frame to extend the Owls' lead to 3-1.
After the two clubs traded runs in the third, KSU extended its lead to 5-2 when McGowan hit his third home run of the season over the right field wall in the bottom of the fifth. McGowan finished the day 4-for-9 with three RBI and two runs.
However, FGCU's Sterling Koerner –who earned the win—came out of the bullpen in relief and pitched 3.2 solid innings to help the Eagles come from behind and defeat the Owls. Koerner (4-3) allowed just four hits and no runs to keep Kennesaw State off the board, allowing FGCU to score the final four runs of the ballgame.
"We were up two runs in the ninth and weren't able to close it out. We need to come back tomorrow strong and close out the series," Sansing said.
Logan Hutchinson was dealt with the tough-luck loss, pitching the final frame of the game allowing one hit and one run. Will Lowman (PCHS 2012) also pitched in relief of Bergen allowing two runs on three hits.
The Owls will conclude their series with FGCU Sunday (April 19) morning, weather permitting. First pitch for the series' finale will be set for 11 a.m. at Stillwell Stadium. Check back with KSUOwls.com or on Twitter @KSUOwlsBaseball for continuous updates with impending weather for Sunday's contest.