ATLANTA – Georgia State had its five-game winning streak snapped with a 6-5 loss to Kennesaw State Wednesday at the GSU Baseball Complex.
Georgia State (32-18), which had already clinched the season series with its Atlanta-area rival with a pair of wins in April, lost for just the fifth time in 21 games. Three of the five losses in that stretch have been by one run.
Andy Almonte and Bo Way drove in three runs each for Kennesaw State (23-25), and the Owls turned three rally-killing double plays.
With the game tied at 4-4 after five innings, Almonte and Way gave the Owls a 6-4 lead with run-scoring singles.
The Panthers rallied in the eighth as Chris Triplett and Mark Hogan singled with one out, and Matt Rose delivered a single to left field to score Triplett and give the Panthers first and third with one out. But catcher Joey Roach grounded into a double play to end the threat and send GSU to the ninth inning still trailing, 6-5.
After freshman center fielder Josh Merrigan threw out Amonte at the plate to prevent a run in the of the ninth, the Panthers got the tying run on base in their final at-bat when Chad Prain was hit by a pitch, but James Connell struck out Nic Wilson to end the game.
Georgia State got on the board first as Merrigan led off the game with a walk, moved to third on Prain’s single and then scored on a throwing error. Chase Raffield followed with a single to score Prain and give the Panthers the early 2-0 lead.
But KSU answered with two runs in the second off freshman Brantley Burton, making his first start of the season. After Peyton Hart and Alex Liquori walked and moved up on a wild pitch, Almonte drove them in with a single to right field, but he was thrown out on the play after making a wide turn at first base. Still, the Owls tied the game at 2-2.
Georgia State regained the lead with a run in the second inning but a double play killed a potential big inning. The Panthers loaded the bases with no outs on three straight walks to Mark Hogan, Matt Rose, and Joey Roach to chase starter Jordan Hillyer. That brought Merrigan to the plate against reliever Colton Cross, who induced a 6-4-3 double play. One run scored but that was all the Panthers would get.
Kennesaw State used that momentum to take the lead in the third on Way’s two-run homer to center field, putting the Owls ahead, 4-3.
“The game changed in the first third of the game,” said GSU head coach Greg Frady. “We had opportunities and could not cash in with a big hit, and they did take advantage of opportunities with the two-out RBIs. I think that changed the game. The double play was not our friend tonight.”
Georgia State tied the game as Rose led off the fourth inning with a solo homer, belting the first pitch over the left field fence for his third homer of the season. Roach followed with a single, but then the Owls managed another double play.
“We didn’t pitch poorly, but we didn’t pitch good enough,” Frady continued. “We didn’t play bad defense, and there were some spectacular plays, but on the other hand, we didn’t play good defense. We didn’t hit badly – we had 10 hits – but we didn’t have timely hits. The whole game we just weren’t in position where I would say we played good enough to win.”
Travis Bergen (1-0), one of seven pitchers used by the Owls, earned his first victory, by pitching a scoreless fifth inning, and Connell was credited with his sixth save. Ben Burns (6-3) took the loss for GSU.
Merrigan extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a seventh-inning single. Rose went 2-for-3 with two RBI, and Raffield added three hits and an RBI for the Panthers.
Georgia State hosts its final home series of the season as Hofstra visits the GSU Baseball Complex this weekend, beginning with a 6 p.m. game Friday.