TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Alabama baseball team’s season came to an end Monday in a 4-2 loss to the Kennesaw State Owls in the championship game of the NCAA tournament Tallahassee Regional at Dick Howser Stadium.
Travis Bergen was named the regional’s most outstanding player, after throwing 3 1/3 innings in relief to help Kennesaw State (40-22) advance to the super regionals to face Louisville.
“I’d like to congratulate Kennesaw State on winning the regional. I think they’ll be a good representative,” Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. “They’ve got a good team, played real hard. I thought our guys today battled extremely hard and you know like everybody at this point in time, you’re down on pitching, but I thought Jay Shaw did a really good job as a reliever for us, to give us 5 innings. (Pitcher Thomas Burrows) came in and did a nice job as well. Offensively, we took a while but started to put a few swings on it. I’m highly disappointed in the last inning, the way the game ended. I thought we had some opportunities there with guys on first and second.”
With the Tide trailing 4-2 heading to the ninth inning, Alabama (37-24) got a walk by Ben Moore and a single by Wade Wass to put the tying runs on board with one out. The rally came to an end after Austen Smith popped out to first base and Kyle Overstreet was called out on a third strike to end the game.
“We had the inning there where they hit us and walked us,” Gaspard said when asked about his team’s inability to generate offense. “They came in with a tough matchup and he made some quality pitches to Wade (Wass) and (Austen) Smith. We hit some balls pretty good at them, just couldn’t find any grass today. I thought our guys were ready to play and I was pretty pleased with the approach overall today.”
Bergen (9-4), who went 8 2/3 innings for the win against the Tide on Friday night, didn’t allow a run, while giving up one hit with a walk and two strikeouts. Justin McCalvin got the final two outs to record his 16th save of the year for the Owls (40-22).
Alabama relief pitcher Thomas Burrows (4-2) took the loss after allowing two runs on four hits with three walks and a strikeout in 3 1/3 innings. Jay Shaw made his first career start for the Tide and threw a season-high 4 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks.
Alabama had six hits. Wass was 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Georgie Salem, Kyle Overstreet, and William Elliott also had singles, and Austen Smith had an RBI.
Kennesaw State had seven hits. Jacob Bruce was 2-for-3 with two double, an RBI, and a run scored, and Max Pentecost had a double and an RBI. Chris McGowan was 1-for-4 with a run scored, and Jeremy Howell came off the bench to go 1-for-1 with a run scored and an RBI.
The Owls scored a run in the bottom of the second. The inning could have been worse after KSU loaded the bases with no outs. After getting the first out on a force out at home plate, Kal Simmons hit a fly ball to the warning track in right field to drive in Alex Liquori.
Alabama had a golden opportunity in the top of the third after loading the bases with no outs after three walks by starting pitcher Jordan Hillyer. The Owls made a pitching change and reliever James Connell struck out Wass and got Smith to pop out to keep the Crimson Tide off the scoreboard.
Alabama scored twice off Connell in the fifth. After Salem singled to start the inning he moved to second on a groundout by Moore. Wass followed with a single to center field to drive in Salem, and advanced to second on a throwing error by center fielder Bo Way. After a balk by Connell put Wass a third, Smith had a sacrifice fly to right field gave Alabama a 2-1 lead.
The Owls answered with a run in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. After Cornell Nixon walked, the Tide turned a 5-4-2 double play on a sac bunt by Simmons to get the first two outs of the inning. Shaw would then give up back-to-back doubles to Jacob Bruce and Max Pentecost to even the score. Pentecost’s double ended the day for Shaw.
Kennesaw State took the lead again in the seventh, when Bruce doubled again when he hit a 2-1 pitch by Burrows off the fence in right field to score Jeremy Howell and make it 3-2 Owls. KSU added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, when Howell had a two-out single to center field to score Chris McGowan.