Kennesaw State saw its win streak improve to seven games with a three-game sweep of Atlantic Sun Conference opponent USC Upstate over the weekend.
The Owls (18-19, 8-1) travelled to Spartanburg, South Carolina and won Friday, 6-5, Saturday, 8-6, and Sunday, 14-9.
“For the most part, we were pretty offensive throughout the weekend,” KSU head coach Mike Sansing said. “We’re definitely happy to get the wins. I felt like the games, especially [Sunday], went back and forth. They’d go up, then we’d go up, and then they’d go up again. I was proud of our guys for battling through adversity through the whole game and not getting down on themselves or complacent. We went out and got the first two wins, but our guys knew how important each win is and it was good to see them competing throughout the whole series.”
KSU junior Corey Greeson reached on an error to lead off the third inning of Friday’s meeting. Greeson advanced to third base on a single from sophomore Austin Upshaw and later stole home for the first run of the game. Upshaw later scored on a sacrifice fly from senior Brennan Morgan, giving the Owls a 2-0 lead.
The Spartans answered in the bottom of the fourth inning with a Daniel Fickas two-RBI single to tie the game. They plated two more runs, on a wild pitch and sacrifice fly, respectively, and held a 4-2 advantage heading to the fifth.
Charlie Carpenter doubled down the right field line in the bottom of the fifth inning to bring home a run and extend USC Upstate’s lead to 5-2.
After stringing together three singles to load the bases in the top of the seventh inning, sophomore Griffin Helms was hit by a pitch to bring home a run and cut KSU’s deficit to 5-3. In the ensuing at-bat, Upshaw connected on a pitch for a two-RBI single to right field to tie the game at 5-5.
Sophomore pitcher Logan Hutchinson relieved Gabe Friese on the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning and retired the side in order. In the top of the eighth, Greeson singled to right field with two outs to score junior Jordan Getzelman and put the Owls up 6-5. Hutchinson was credited with the win. Junior Erich Stahl, who faced the final two batters in the bottom of the ninth and ended the game with back-to-back strikeouts, picked up the save.
In Saturday’s contest, Greeson led off the top of the first inning by reaching on an error. After advancing to second base on a wild pitch and third on a groundout, Greeson scored on an Upshaw single up the middle and the Owls jumped out to a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, redshirt-sophomore Taylor Allum notched a double down the right field line to score Upshaw and extend KSU’s lead to 2-0.
Sophomore pitcher AJ Moore got off to a rocky start on the mound for the Owls, walking the first batter he faced and hitting the second. After picking up a strikeout, Moore surrendered an RBI single to Carpenter and the Spartans trailed 2-1. With runners on the corners, Moore stuck out the next two batters he faced to escape the inning without any further damage.
KSU added to its lead in the top of the second inning as senior Alex Liquori drew a leadoff walk and later scored on a Greeson RBI double. Following an RBI single from sophomore Grant Williams that scored freshman David Chabut, Greeson scored on a wild pitch and the Owls lead 5-1.
The Spartans loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the second via a pair of walks and a single up the middle. Anthony Vaglica, who drew a leadoff walk, scored from third on a wild pitch. USC Upstate added another run on a sacrifice fly out to cut its deficit to 5-3.
Morgan reached on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded in the top of the fourth inning as Greeson scored from third and KSU’s lead grew to 6-3. USC Upstate continued to hang around, however, as the Spartans led off the bottom of the fourth with a walk and a pair of singles to score and pull within two runs. Later in the inning, a fielding error led to a pair of runs as Spartans tied the game at 6-6 heading to the fifth.
After nearly three innings of gridlock, Morgan notched a two-out, RBI single in the top of the eighth inning to give the Owls an 8-6 advantage.
In Sunday’s series finale, USC Upstate jumped in front with a run on an error in the bottom of the first inning. In the bottom of the second, James Fowlkes launched a two-out, three-run home run to left center field and the Spartans led 4-0. Carpenter led off the bottom of the third with a triple and scored on a ground out to push the lead out to 5-0.
Held in check through the first three innings, KSU’s offense exploded for seven runs in the top of the fourth. Upshaw led off with a double and was followed by six straight singles strung together by the Owls en route to taking a 7-5 lead.
USC Upstate remained unfazed, however, as they tied the game in the bottom of the fourth on a Cody Brittain two-RBI double down the left field line and later regained the lead as Brittain scored on a throwing error.
Trailing 9-7, KSU erupted for a seven run inning once again in the top of the seventh. Senior Justin Motely was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score Morgan from third and pull the Owls within a run. Four runs later, Morgan returned to the plate and connected on a 2-0 pitch for a two-RBI double to extend KSU’s lead to 14-9.
“It’s a humbling game and you just have to continue to chip away,” Sansing said of his team’s recent win streak to pull themselves within one game of .500 after sitting at 11-19. “We talk to our guys about competing and the process, trying to get better each day. I feel like we have, and we’re better than where we were four or five weeks ago.”
The Owls will look to continue their win streak as they travel to Jacksonville, Alabama on Tuesday, April 19 to take on Jacksonville State at 6 p.m.