SPARTANBURG, S.C. - The Kennesaw State Owls' hopes for an Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Championship and automatic bid to an NCAA regional fell short on Saturday afternoon, as they dropped an 8-0 decision to the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in the championship round of the A-Sun Championship at Cyrill Stadium on the campus of USC Upstate.
After a rousing comeback that saw the No. 2-seeded Owls (33-24) win three straight games after dropping their championship opener to work their way into a Saturday showdown with the No. 1-seeded Eagles (37-22), the Black and Gold allowed runs in five out of six innings, and would strand a total of seven runners on base despite notching lead-off base hits in each of the first four frames against A-Sun Pitcher of the Year Shelby Morgan.
The Eagles would immediately strike against Owls starter Abbey Mixon, moving ahead, 1-0, in the first inning despite not recording a hit.
Mixon would issue a walk to lead-off hitter Jessica Barnes, who would then steal second and move to third on an illegal pitch before scoring on a sacrifice bunt.
It would be the first of seven runs Barnes would be at least partially responsible for during the afternoon.
Barnes would hit a three-run blast in the second inning off of Amanda Henderson, who came on in place of Mixon in the pitcher's circle with one out after the junior walked a pair of batters.
A Chelsea Zgbrabik solo shot would make it 5-0 through three, before a Barnes' single made it 6-0 in the fourth inning.
The Eagles lead-off hitter would have one more RBI single in the sixth, before a Zgrabik single with the bases loaded would drive in the eighth run of the game to bring the championship to a conclusion.
The Owls, which needed to win Saturday's opener to force a second and decisive game against the Eagles, were led at the plate by senior Brittany Moore, who was 3-for-3 in her final game as an Owl.
Fellow senior and A-Sun Player of the Year Jessica Cross would add a hit in her Owls finale, capping off an A-Sun Championship in which she batted .500 (9-for-18) while hitting a home run and notching four RBI.
Cross ends her career with the Black and Gold second on the program's all-time home run list with 54, while placing in the top 10 in nine major statistical categories.
"I am so proud of what these young women accomplished this season and am grateful for the journey that they took me on; teams like this make me really proud to be a coach," Owls head coach Scott Whitlock said. "Today didn't go our way, it was one of those days where we lost to a good team, plain and simple. They got the pitching and the hitting when they needed it."
Cross was joined by Lindsay Vollmer and Abbey Mixon on the A-Sun All-Tournament Team, which was announced at the conclusion of play. Vollmer was 4-for-13 with four RBI, while Mixon tossed complete games in the Owls wins over Jacksonville and Stetson.
Kennesaw State and Florida Gulf Coast shared the A-Sun regular season title, while splitting their doubleheader in Fort Myers on March 7.