KSU sets focus on playing Louisville
by Brett Borden
Tribune Sports Correspondent
June 06, 2014 04:00 AM | 1658 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Max Pentecost, a first-round pick of the Blue Jays with the 11th selection Thursday, will lead Kennesaw State today as it begins the super regional at Louisville.
<Br>Associated Press photo
Max Pentecost, a first-round pick of the Blue Jays with the 11th selection Thursday, will lead Kennesaw State today as it begins the super regional at Louisville.
Associated Press photo
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kennesaw State baseball coach Mike Sansing already has quite the resume.

He has won a national title at the NAIA and NCAA Division II levels. His 1997 team finished with an unheard-of record of 61-5.

But his first Division I tournament didn’t come until his 23rd season at the helm of the Owls.

Not wanting to wait any longer, Sansing and his Owls added their first regional title to that list, advancing them to this weekend’s super regional at Louisville.

The first game is tonight at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

Sansing was asked Thursday what it’s been like after Kennesaw State beat Alabama 4-2 on Monday in the Tallahassee Regional to keep the season alive.

“It’s been a little hectic,” the Woodstock resident said in a news conference at Louisville’s Patterson Stadium. “It was a quick turnover after Monday night trying to get everything ready for our departure. We got a good practice in (Wednesday), though. We’ve kind of been working this week more than enjoying it.”

Star catcher Max Pentecost said the results of last weekend have the team eager to see what it can do this time around.

“It showed that we can play with anyone,” said Pentecost, who leads the nation with 110 hits this season.

It’s also showed that Pentecost could play at the next level, with the junior drafted 11th overall Thursday night by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Pentecost added that the Owls’ midseason turnaround (they’ve won 26 of 28 games after a 14-20 start) has given them a new approach.

Gone is the fear of losing.

“Once we started winning,” Pentecost said, “we realized how much more fun it was.”

Regional MVP Travis Bergen, who will start Saturday’s second game of the series, said the Owls’ wins over Georgia, Georgia Tech and Atlantic Sun Conference contender Florida Gulf Coast during the regular season was great, but winning the regional in Tallahassee was something entirely different.

“It put us on the map,” Bergen said. “I saw on Twitter that a lot of people didn’t even know what state we were from. The people in Alabama know now.”

The people in Louisville know now, too.

Louisville outfielder Jeff Gardner, the American Athletic Conference player of the year with a .326 average, nine home runs and 67 RBIs, played on the same Cape Cod League team with Pentecost last summer and the two have communicated all season long. They even spent time together over Christmas break with another player from that team.

“We’ve been texting all week,” said Pentecost.

The friendly exchanges end today as both players try to extend their season at the expense of the other’s.

For Kennesaw State (40-22), that’s an enormous challenge.

Louisville (48-15) is the last team standing from last year’s College World Series. The Cardinals also have the nation’s winningest starter in Kyle Funkhouser (13-2, 1.68 ERA), who starts tonight against the Owls’ Jordan Hillyer (7-3, 3.55). Louisville also has a stellar bullpen, and it’s second in the country in stolen bases.

“If you look at their arms, you have to be pretty impressed,” said Sansing. “I would call them power arms. I think that’s the key area that we have to look at. I think the second area is their baserunning. I told Max, they’re going to challenge him. He’s aware. Those are the areas that stick out to me.

“Offensively, we have to be aware of Gardner. He’s got some pop. We’re going to have to score and we’re going to have to play good defense.”

It sounds daunting for the Owls, but then, so did the thought of postseason baseball about two months ago. So did the prospect of advancing past Florida State and Alabama last weekend. But they’ve enjoyed proving people wrong, and maybe educating them about their whereabouts along the way.
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