Owls showing nation they’re no fluke

KSU Athletics

There is a rich history of college baseball in Georgia. UGA won the College World Series in 1990 and were runners-up 2008. Georgia Tech was also runners-up in 1994 and had been to the NCAA Tournament 30 times.

But there is another school in Georgia that is trying to build a tradition of winning. Kennesaw State is the hottest team in all of college baseball as they have won 26 of its last 28 games. They plowed their way through the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament and defeated Georgia Southern and Alabama in the Tallahassee Regionals to make their way to the Super Regionals for the first time in school history. In fact, with KSU winning the Tallahassee Regional it’s the first time since 1993 any school has won a regional in its first appearance.

The Owls will face Louisville this weekend in the Super Regional to earn a sport in the College World Series. The Cardinals are the Big East Conference Champions and are looking to reach the College World Series for the second consecutive season. So the Owls have a tough task ahead of them, but they have beaten every team they faced this season, and they are not going to back down this weekend.


So for those who don’t know about Kennesaw State baseball, one may think they are a one-year wonder and everything is going right for them this season. That is not the case because head coach Mike Sansing has been working for this ever since he was hired back in 1992.

At that time, Kennesaw State was known as Kennesaw State College and all the athletic teams were playing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Kennesaw hired Sansing after spending three seasons at Shorter and compiling a 102-55 record. Sansing’s success would carry over with the Owls as they would win the NAIA World Series in 1994.

The following year, the Owls would move up to NCAA Division II and would play in the Peach Belt Conference. They were successful in their first season as they tallied a 42-14 record and won the conference. But they were able to improve on that the following year, recording a 48-17 overall record and won the NCAA Division II World Series.

After winning the World Series in 1996, the Owls would make it to the World Series three consecutive seasons where they would either lose in the championship series or in the semifinals. In fact, the 1997 team could be considered as one of the better teams in Division II regular season history as they won 61 games and lost only five. They lost to Central Oklahoma and Cal State Chico in the College World Series, which were the two teams that face each other in the finals. From 2000-2005 the Owls made it the postseason five times and reached the Division II World Series again in 2003.

In 2006, the Owls made the jump from Division II to Division I and they would play in the Atlantic Sun Conference, which is where they play today. They got off to slow start, but they were able to pick things up staring in 2012 as they reached the conference title game losing to Belmont. They were able to reach the A-Sun title game last year and lost to East Tennessee State.

So with all the success he has had the last 20-plus years, why hasn’t Sansing moved on? Why hasn’t he made the jump to a bigger school?

“We’ve been happy here,” Sansing told the AJC before the Tallahassee Regional. “They’ve treated us great. You couldn’t ask for a better idea to be in for recruiting. The saying maybe the grass is greener isn’t true for me. Every job you take is for a lifetime, that’s the way I’ve looked at.”


It’s good that KSU has a reliable coach in Sansing. But it doesn’t hurt that he has some talented players that are starting to garner national attention.

If there is one player to watch, it would have to be catcher Max Pentecost. The junior leads the country in hits with 110 while ranking second in batting average and total bases. But he can also play at a high level on defense as he caught 21 runners stealing and he also has a .975 fielding percentage.

Pentecost has been recently named a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award which is given to the nation’s top catcher. A final vote will be made during College World Series play and he’s going up against Will Allen of Ole Miss and Kyle Schwarber of Indiana. Pentecost is also a semifinalist for the Dick Howser award for breakout player of the year and he has also won Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year.

Pentecost is a huge reason the Owls are playing in the Super Regionals, but pitcher Travis Bergen was also clutch Tallahassee Regionals and was named the Regional’s Most Valuable Player for pitching two strong games against Alabama. The Owls also have a strong closer in Justin McCalvin. He earned the save against Alabama on Monday to earn a spot in the Super Regionals. But that is nothing new to him because he earned 12 saves in the regular season which is a KSU Division I record.

So the Owls are not a program that all of a sudden caught fire. Sansing has built a power that has grown ever since he has arrived on campus. They made noise in the NAIA, did even more damage in Division II and are looking to make national headlines in the Division I level. Even if they lose to Louisville this weekend, they have made a name for themselves and the entire country will now know about the Owls are a program that will be in the hunt for the NCAA College World Series title for years to come.


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