The NCAA tournament win was a first for the third-seeded Owls (38-21) in the Division I era, and their 24th in 25 games for KSU. Kennesaw State also becomes the first Atlantic Sun Conference team to win in a regional since 2011.
The Owls will play a winners’ bracket game today against fourth-seeded Georgia Southern, which routed regional host Florida State in Friday’s late game. Kennesaw State swept two games with the Eagles during the regular season.
Second-seeded Alabama (34-23) will play the Seminoles in an elimination game today.
“I thought it was an excellent game for both teams,” Kennesaw State coach Mike Sansing said in a university release. “They both played extremely well. I thought Bergen pitched unbelievable and competitive. It was an outstanding performance. Defensively, Kal (Simmons) made a lot of plays. I don’t know how many, but he made a lot.
“I think we played pretty well. The only thing we didn’t do was turn a double play late in the game, but I thought we had competitive at-bats. We don’t have a lot to show for it, but we were able to get the run across and that’s all we needed.”
Bergen (8-4) held the Crimson Tide at bay, allowing just five hits with three strikeouts and one walk in 121 pitches, 79 of which went for strikes. All-conference reliever Justin McCalvin came in for the save, recording the final out of the game with a fly out to former Hillgrove High School standout Justin Motley in right field.
“He was effective,” Sansing said of Bergen. “I think he was around 105 pitches going into the last inning. Still, commanding the zone, and we talked a little bit afterwards, and I thought he was very strong there (Friday). It was a tough decision to pull him before the last out. It was at that point and McCalvin did a great job all year, so we were just riding a lot of emotion with Bergen.”
Bergen said Alabama’s tendency to be impatient at the plate helped his cause.
“I think they were swinging early in the count,” he said in the release. “I was able to locate the fastball pretty well and get some quick outs, and that’s what kept the pitch count so low.”
Offensively, Kennesaw State needed just four hits to take down Alabama, drawing five walks and capitalizing on a Crimson Tide error.
After putting runners on base in the second, third and fourth innings, the Owls finally came through in the top of the fifth when Simmons shot a sacrifice fly to left field. Brennan Morgan, who led off with a first-pitch single, came home from third Motley and Lassiter product Cornell Nixon drew walks.
The run came after the Owls forced Alabama starter Spencer Turnbull to nearly 100 pitches through the five innings. Turnbull (5-7) left after 6 1/3 innings, scattering three hits and four walks.
Kennesaw State threatened again in the top of the seventh, putting two runners on in scoring position with Morgan and Nixon, but the Owls failed to bring home the insurance runs and headed into the stretch with a 1-0 lead.
Bergen then rallied with three strikeouts in his final 2.2 innings of work, handing the game over to McCalvin who punched the Owls ticket into Saturday night’s winner’s bracket contest with just four pitches.
Morgan, Nixon, Bo Way and Matt Bahnick collected the four hits for Kennesaw State, with Nixon’s a third-inning double.