In a lackluster 2019, Kennesaw State baseball finished seventh in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 27-29 overall record and missed the conference tournament for the first time since 2010.
For the coming season, coach Mike Sansing is focused on developing his strong freshmen, while searching for more consistent play from his veterans.
The Owls begin their season at 4 p.m. Friday at home against St. John’s, as a part of the Atlanta Challenge. Here are three things to know about the Owls before the season starts:
Strong, experienced offense
Despite being picked to finish seventh in the preseason coaches’ poll, the Owls return a majority of their high-powered offense. The group is anchored by defending Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year Terence Norman, who hit .350 in 2019. The star outfielder is joined by four other returning starters, including preseason all-conference first baseman Justin Russell, shortstop Tyler Simon, catcher Tyler Tolve, and left fielder Garrett Hodges. All five returners hit above .293 last season and combined for 162 of the team’s 308 RBIs.
“I feel like it’s a balanced team,” Sansing said. “There’s some speed and there’s some power in the offense, which is a rare commodity to get both of those in your position players. I think they’ve worked tremendously hard in the weight room and on the field. They’re anxious to get started.”
Holes in the infield
The Owls did graduate two key pieces of their infield in 2019: second baseman Jaylen Smith and third baseman David Chabut. The senior pairing ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in hits and played crucial leadership roles for the team’s defense. Sansing plans on using a mixture of underclassmen to fill the gaps, including freshmen Zac Corbin and Marcerio Allen at second base, with redshirt freshman Logan Fink and sophomore Ryan Smith handling the duties at third. Although Sansing cited the importance of both positions, he trusts that the rest of the experienced infield will provide necessary backup for the inexperienced players.
Young pitching staff
Kennesaw State’s youth will mostly show on the mound. The Owls lost two of their three weekend starters in Brooks Buckler and Josh Coburn and lost a handful of key bullpen pieces. Sansing narrowed down his list of starters to six players, led by returning starter Ryan Kennedy, who compiled a 5.16 ERA and team-high 66 strikeouts last season. As for the bullpen, the Owls plan to use a committee of underclassmen, giving critical experience to what Sansing feels is an untested staff.
“I think there’s some quality arms (on the pitching staff) but, as I’ve told them, they’re unproven at this level,” Sansing said. “There’s some young guys in there, there’s a couple of transfers in there so we’ll see how things develop. I think they’re just unproven right now. Not that they’re lacking, but they just don’t have the experience.”
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