The Kennesaw State Owls used two solo home runs from Kaylee Williams and a six-run sixth inning to cap a sweep over the Mercer Bears on Saturday afternoon, winning the opener, 9-1 before taking a 7-3 decision in the second game. The sweep ensured the Owls at least a share of the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title.
"This is a great day for us. It's a testament to our players and how hard they've worked, they recommitted themselves when we got into conference play, and I'm just delighted to be a part of it," Owls head coach Scott Whitlock commented after the sweep was complete. "They deserve all the credit in the world."
After immediately jumping on the opposing pitching in the first game with three runs in the first inning and two in the second before pulling away for good with four in the fourth, the Owls (30-22, 14-4 A-Sun) had a little more trouble getting their footing at the plate in the second game. It wasn't until Sharon Swanson hit single with one out in the third that the Black and Gold would get a hit against Mercer (24-28, 5-13 A-Sun), and they wouldn't score until the next frame, when Kaylee Williams would blast a lead-off home run to left center-field to break a scoreless tie, her fourth round tripper of the season.
The lead wouldn't last for long, as Amanda Henderson, who struck out six batters over five and two third innings for the Owls in the second game, allowed a home run off the scoreboard in right field to Sara Stukes to tie things at one apiece in the fifth inning. Mercer would take their only lead of the afternoon in the sixth, when a two-out double by Sarah Santana drove in Kristen Marko to put the Bears ahead, 2-1.
As they just did in the fourth inning, however, the Black and Gold received a jolt by Williams, who once again wasted no time in putting a run up on the board as the lead-off hitter in the sixth inning, hitting another shot over the left centerfield wall that tied things up at 2. Her hit was the first of five in the frame for the Owls, as singles by Brittany Moore and Carly Van Auken would be followed by a bases clearing double by Jensen Hackett, driving in the pair to make it, 4-2. The Black and Gold were far from done in the inning, as a Swanson walk would be precede a three-run home run to right centerfield by Bianca Durant, her seventh of the season, making it 7-2 and bringing the Owls ever so close to the regular season crown.
Abbey Mixon, who had come in with two outs in the sixth inning to strand two Mercer runners, allowed a pair of hits and a run in the seventh inning, but the cushion was more than large enough to give the Owls one of their biggest victories in the Division I era and Mixon her second win of the day.
The opener wasn't nearly as tight as the flip side, as a Lindsay Vollmer three-run home run immediately put the Owls ahead, 3-0, in the first inning. An RBI double by Jessica Cross and a sacrifice fly by Durant extended the margin to five. The eight-run after five innings rule would come into play soon after, when a two-run home run by Cross, an RBI single by Moore and a bases loaded walk by Mandi Burns made it 9-0.
Mixon, who notched her sixth complete game of the season in the opener while striking out six and allowing just four hits, allowed one Mercer run in the top of the fifth, but that was all, the Owls early offensive outburst a sign of things to come in the second game.
Cross, Moore, Hackett, Williams and Van Auken all had two-hit games for the Black and Gold on the afternoon, who capped off their A-Sun slate with five consecutive conference victories.
The regular title is the second for the Owls since they joined the A-Sun and NCAA Division in 2006, with their first title coming in 2007 when they also finished 14-4 in the league. Florida Gulf Coast enters the week with a 12-4 mark, and will face North Florida in a home doubleheader at 5:00 p.m. The Owls split their doubleheader at FGCU at March 7.
In addition to at least a share of the league title, the Owls also clinched a top-two seed in the upcoming Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, which takes place at USC Upstate in Spartanburg, S.C., May 9-12. As a top-two seed, they will receive an automatic bye into the second day of the championship. The winner of the tournament will receive an automatic bid into an NCAA regional.
Saturday's game was the Owls regular season finale.