This weekend’s series will mark the first time that the Lions and Owls have went head-to-head on a baseball diamond. Columbia holds a 2-2 record all-time against teams currently in the Atlantic Sun, having downed Florida Gulf Coast twice in 2011 and falling to Stetson twice. KSU is 1-4 against Ivy League competition historically, last falling to Harvard, 10-6, in 2011.
The Lions split a four-game set at USF to begin the season, posting victories in the first two games. David Speer earned Ivy League Pitcher of the Week honors after shutting out the Bulls, 1-0, in a five-hit, eight strikeout performance on Feb. 28. Centerfielder Jordan Serena went 9-for-16 in the series, scoring six times to earn Co-Ivy League Player of the Week accolades.STORY: Serena and Speer Grab First Ivy League Weekly Honors of the Season
KENNESAW STATE’S STATUS
The Owls moved to 8-6 after turning away Georgia State in a midweek clash Tuesday evening, 3-0. Brennan Morgan doubled in the sixth inning to plate Jacob Bruce for the game-winning run, while Justin McCalvin picked up his second win of the season on the hill in relief.
SCOUTING THE LIONS
Strong starting pitching and timely hitting helped the Lions capture victories in the first two games of the season, downing USF by scores of 1-0 and 6-4. The start was the first 2-0 beginning to a season since 1999 when Columbia won its first three games over William Paterson, Pace and Purdue.
Senior hurler David Speer was named Ivy League Pitcher of the Week after his dominant performance in the opening game of the season. Speer stifled USF’s hitters, giving up just five hits and striking out eight in eight innings of work in a 1-0 shutout.
Junior centerfielder Jordan Serena paced the Lions offense with an exceptional showcase of hitting. Serena completed the weekend 9-for-16 from the dish with three doubles. The speedster also stole three bases, walked once, was hit by a pitch, drove in a run and crossed the plate six times. His performance earned him Co-Ivy League Player of the Week honors.
Serena’s RBI proved pivotal in the second game of the series against USF. Facing a 2-2 count in the top of the ninth, Serena ripped a double to left center to score first-year Will Savage, giving Columbia a 5-4 advantage. Senior Aaron Silbar drove in Serena two batters later as an insurance run. Silbar has driven in a team-high three runs through the first four games.
Despite dropping the final two games of the series, Columbia’s pitching staff performed well throughout the series against USF. The Bulls entered the weekend averaging over nine runs and 12.7 hits per game and Columbia’s pitchers held them under that total in three of the four contests.
SCOUTING THE OWLS
The Owls improved to 8-6 with a midweek win over in-state rival Georgia State, 3-0, on Tuesday night. KSU has won four of its last six, downing Gardner-Webb, Georgia Tech and Jacksonville State before GSU. The Owls are entering the home stretch of their out-of-conference schedule, with matchups against Auburn and Western Carolina before facing Mercer on March 14 in an Atlantic Sun showdown.
KSU is among the best teams in the A-Sun in both hitting and pitching. With a .293 team batting average, the Owls are atop the A-Sun rankings, tallying 90 runs through the first 14 games. The trio of Kal Simmons (.349), Jacob Bruce (.344) and Alex Liquori (.340) are all hitting above a .340 clip.
On the hill, KSU ranks third in the A-Sun with a 3.12 team ERA, holding opponents to a .247 batting average. The Owls set the standard for strikeouts, sitting down a conference-best 127 batters, 42 of them looking at strike three. Jordan Hillyer and Travis Bergen are the top of the rotation hurlers for KSU, posting ERAs of 2.00 and 2.60, respectively, in three starts. Justin McCalvin leads the Owls with two wins after coming on in relief Tuesday against GSU and earning the victory.