The third-seeded Owls (35-21) took a 5-0 lead through seven innings before withstanding the seventh-seeded Hatters’ rally attempt. After scoring three runs in the eighth and another two in the top of the ninth, Stetson (25-33) had the tying run on base with two outs before Kennesaw State reliever Justin McCalvin got the Hatters’ Kyle Pitts to foul out.
The Owls got on the board in the third as former Hillgrove high School star Justin Motley led off with a double before moving to third on a sacrifice bunt by Lassiter’s Cornell Nixon. Motley then scored on Kal Simmons’ single to right.
Three consecutive singles to lead off the fourth loaded the bases before sacrifice flies by and Matt Bahnick and Motley provided the runs.
Bo Way’s single in the fifth and Jacob Bruce’s single in the seventh provided a pair of additional insurance runs that proved to be key as Stetson began its charge.
Pitts tripled down into right field to drive in two runs, while pinch-hitter Jordan Schulz hit an RBI single off McCalvin, who had just entered in place of reliever Nathan Harsh.
Motley and Nixon had RBI singles in the bottom of the eighth, extending Kennesaw State’s lead to 7-3, but Stetson responded with consecutive walks off McCalvin to lead off the ninth.
Taylor Cockrell’s double and Garrett Russini’s sacrifice fly cut the Hatters’ deficit to 7-5, and Robert Bruce drew a walk to put the tying run on, but Stetson couldn’t get anything more off McCalvin.
The bullpen’s struggles nearly wiped out an effective start for Travis Bergen (7-4), who struck out five and scattered six hits and a walk over seven shutout innings.
Way went 3-for-4, while Motley, Nixon, Chris McGowan and Jacob Bruce each had a pair of hits. Pentecost, the lone Kennesaw State starter without a hit, made contact on his first three at-bats, but he struck out looking in the eighth to end his streak.
It was Pentecost’s first hitless game since March 11, when Kennesaw State managed only one hit as a whole in a loss to Auburn.
With the two wins, the Owls will get a day off before resuming play Saturday against the winner of a losers’ bracket game between Stetson and East Tennessee State.
Duke 6, Georgia Tech 0: Drew Van Orden struck out eight and Duke hit three home runs in beating Georgia Tech at the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament.
Van Orden (6-5) allowed five hits to help the fourth-seeded Blue Devils (33-24) improve to 1-1 in pool play at the tournament. They will face top-seeded Miami on Saturday.
Ryan Dietrich homered in the fourth and finished with four hits for Duke. Andy Perez hit a solo homer in the fifth and Jordan Betts — who had three hits — added a two-run shot in the seventh.
Ben Parr (5-4) allowed two runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings for the ninth-seeded Yellow Jackets (34-25). They fell to 1-1 in round-robin play and will face fifth-seeded Clemson today.
A.J. Murray had two hits for Georgia Tech.