The score was tied at 2-2 after Georgia State scored first on runs by Josh Merrigan, who led off the inning with a walk, and Chad Prain, who singled and scored on a Chase Raffield single. That was answered by Almonte, who hit a two-run single in the second for the Owls.
Georgia State increased its lead to 3-2 in the second, but should have had more after Mark Hogan, Matt Rose and Joey Roach led off the inning walks, resulting in starting pitcher Jordan Hillyer being replaced by Colton Cross. Merrigan hit into a double play to score Hogan, but that’s all the Panthers could push across.
Kennesaw State answered in the third with a two-run home run to center field by Way to take a 4-3 lead. Way said he was thinking about trying to hit a ground ball to the right side, but was able to golf the low fastball out of the park. His shot came one pitch after Georgia State coach Greg Frady went to the mound to talk to Brantley Burton. Kal Simmons led off the inning with a double off the right-field wall.
“We had opportunities and couldn’t get the big one, or just cash in on it,” Frady said. “And then they got some opportunities with the two-out RBIs, and I think that changed the game.”
Georgia State wasted another opportunity in the third when neither Chris Triplett nor Hogan could drive in Raffield or Nic Wilson, who were on third and second, respectively, with one out.
The Panthers tied the score 4-4 on a solo homer by Matt Rose to left field in the fourth.
After wasting scoring chances in the fourth and fifth innings, the Owls took a 6-4 lead in the sixth on RBI singles by Almonte and Way. Almonte’s single scored Alex Liquori, who reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Joey Roach. Way’s single scored Almonte, who was on second after a ground ball by Simmons.
Georgia State scraped out a run in the eighth, but again wasted a chance to tie or take the lead. Triplett and Hogan hit back-to-back singles with one out. Rose followed with an RBI single that scored Triplett and moved Hogan to third. But Roach hit into a double play to end the threat and leave the Panthers trailing 6-5.
“The double play was not our friend tonight,” Frady said. “But are double plays every timely? We just need to play a little better.”