The anticipated duel of pitching aces didn’t happen, but Kennesaw State’s Stephen Janas lived up to his end of the bargain anyway.
Janas, the nation’s ERA leader, pitched his second complete game of the season as the Owls beat East Tennessee State 4-1 Friday night at Thomas Stadium.
The game was supposed to feature two of the top pitchers in the Atlantic Sun Conference, but ETSU’s top gun Kerry Doane was scratched because of a foot injury suffered when he was hit by a foul ball in the dugout last weekend at Stetson.
With rain in the weekend forecast, the teams decided to try to finish the series today with a doubleheader, beginning at 1 p.m. Doane (8-1, 1.97 ERA) is scheduled to start the opener.
In Doane’s absence, ETSU freshman Josh Jacques got the start and went toe to toe with Janas for six innings.
Janas came into the game with a .70 ERA, and after allowing a run in the ninth inning on Alex Reynolds’ groundout, it went up to .75.
“That’s what we’ve been seeing from him the whole year,” Kennesaw State coach Mike Sensing said. “It is expected. You hate to put those expectations on him, but he puts them on himself.”
The sophomore righty admittedly wasn’t his sharpest, allowing a season-high nine hits and several hard-hit outs. He also hit a batter for the first time all season.
“I gave them plenty of opportunities,” said Janas, who improved to 7-0. “They were pretty aggressive, and when you try to throw strikes early in the count, they get some pretty good pitches to hit.”
The win didn’t come easy for Janas. The Bucs (22-17 overall, 11-8 A-Sun) had several early scoring chances. They finished the night 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
“I thought we had some good at-bats,” ETSU coach Tony Skole said. “We hit a lot of balls hard. We just couldn’t get that one big hit.”
Jacques (1-4) was a hard-luck loser. He pitched into the seventh and left a scoreless game after allowing seven hits. Two of the runners he allowed scored after he left the game.
“I’m very proud of Josh,” Skole said. “He gave us an opportunity to win tonight.”
Chris McGowan led off the seventh with a double for Kennesaw State (22-22, 10-9) and Max Pentecost followed with a bunt single. That ended the night for Jacques, who threw 63 pitches in six-plus innings in an efficient outing.
Will Chesney came on, and after a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk loaded the bases, pinch hitter Kody Belcher hit a liner to center field that Andrew Green caught on an all-out dive, making it appear to be a sacrifice fly. McGowan inexplicably didn’t tag up, and by the time Green made the catch, it was too late.
The Owls got McGowan off the hook when the next batter, Alex Liqouri, grounded to second, and Derek Niesman’s throw got away from the covering Chesney, allowing two runs to score.
Andy Almonte, who went 3 for 4, followed with anRBI single to make it 3-0.
Pentecost, who also went 3 for 4, added a run-scoring single in the eighth for Kennesaw State’s final run.
“That’s kind of how baseball goes sometimes,” Jacques said. “I felt good. My defense made some great plays and I felt like I threw really well. I think personally I can build on it.”
Reynolds’ single in the second inning stretched his hitting streak to eight games. He’s reached base in 13 straight.
Green robbed McGowan of a hit in the third inning with his first of two diving catches.
Green tried to steal second base in the fourth inning, and was called out even though shortstop Kal Simmons appeared to miss the tag. The call, which brought Skole out of the dugout for a brief but animated argument, was made even bigger when the next batter, Andrew Lasure, sliced a double to left.
Lasure and Niesman each finished with two hits for ETSU.
Logan Rice (4-1. 2.41) is set to start Game 2 today for the Bucs. Travis Dean (3-7, 4.19) and Kevin Kyle (5-5, 4.67) are scheduled to start for Kennesaw State.