Another Potentially Historic Streak In The Making…
NASHVILLE – Ronnie Freeman broke the Kennesaw State baseball all-time hit streak mark as he had a hit in his 42nd consecutive game, but the Owls lost a sixth-inning lead as No. 2-ranked Vanderbilt rallied for a, 9-5, victory at Hawkins Field on Wednesday evening.
The big news of the night was Freeman and his fourth inning single to center field that broke the 12-year old record set by former KSU All-American and NCAA Division II Player of the Year, Jason Jones. The Owls sophomore, who had walked in the first inning and was hit by a pitch in the second, now has the 12th longest streak in NCAA history and the fifth longest streak in Division I history.
“This is a great honor for Ronnie,” boasted head coach Mike Sansing on Freeman’s accomplishment. “There have been a lot of great players that have come through our program and Ronnie is without question is one of them. To surpass such a milestone so early in his career is unbelievable.”
Kennesaw State is the only program in the history of the NCAA, Division I, II or III to boast two players with hitting streaks of longer than 40 games. Freeman now has the longest NCAA Division I hitting streak in the state of Georgia. Sam Barth of Augusta State (Division II) has the longest NCAA hitting streak in the state at 47 games.
Florida International junior Garrett Wittels‘ carried a 56-game hitting streak into 2011, but it ended in FIU’s season-opening loss to Southeastern Louisiana. Former MLB and Oklahoma State star Robin Ventura holds the Division One record with hits in 58 straight games in 1988.
Although the Owls jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, the Owls found themselves trailing the No. 2-ranked Commodores, 4-1, after three innings. But, Sean McClurken walked with one out in the fourth inning, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on Freeman’s record-breaking hit, a line drive single to center field to bring the Owls to within two runs.
McClurken had his best game of the season with three hits and reached base four times as he has embraced his role as the Owls leadoff hitter to the tune of a .381 average in the last six games.
The Owls tied the game in the top of the fifth inning when Will Howard skied a two-run home run over the right field fence for his second home run of the season. The following inning saw the Black and Gold turn a potential big inning into narrow one-run lead.
Freeman led off the inning with a hit and Andy Chriscaden followed with his second double of the game to put runners on second and third with nobody out. With Peyton Hart up, Freeman was picked off third before Hart singled to center field.
Drew Fowlkes, who did not start for the first time this season, gave the Owls a 5-4 lead with a pinch-hit single to right field, but that was all the runs Kennesaw State would score as Vanderbilt’s Mark Lamm struck out Howard and Bucky Smith to strand runners at second and third.
“I thought the first half of the game we matched up pretty well,” added Sansing. “But we left too many runners on base in crucial situations. If we can push a couple of those runners across that would have made an impact.”
Sean Fream (0-1), who settled down after a rough start, cruised through the fourth and fifth innings and retired the first two batters of the sixth inning before surrendering an infield single to Riley Reynolds and walking Curt Casali and Tony Kemp to load the bases.
Freshman Drew Duncan relieved Fream and walked Mike Yastrzemski on five pitches to tie the game and then gave up a two-run single up the middle to Anthony Gomez that put the Commodores ahead. Vanderbilt would add two more runs in the bottom of the seventh.
“Again too many walks,” commented Sansing. “We’re giving too many free bases and we aren’t making people earn runs. Instead of forcing a team to group together hits all they need to get is one [hit] that does the damage.”
The Owls open up a three-game series against Belmont on Friday afternoon at 5:00 ET in Nashville. The series will continue with single games on Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET.
(Courtesy Kennesaw State)