The win was Stetson’s 10th of the young season, against just two losses. Maine fell to 3-6 on the year.
That Hatters never got comfortable at the plate against the Black Bears’ hurlers. Starter Mike Connolly (0-2) and reliever Fran Whitten are both listed as catchers on the Maine roster, but both looked comfortable on the Melching Field mound, with the exception of Whitten’s balk in the eighth inning.
“I didn’t see the balk,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn admitted after the game. “Some of the guys said it looked like he was adjusting his foot and he might have come up a little.”
The balk came with runners at first and third and two out in the eighth after the Hatters leading hitter, Ben Carhart, was intentionally walked to bring Ryan Lashley to the plate. Lashley had driven in a run in the sixth inning with one of the three hits for Stetson in the game, but did not get a chance to drive in Mitchel Brennan before Whitten balked.
The balk came after Whitten, who came on in relief to face Sam Kimmel with Brennan at third and one out, got the Hatters’ catcher to strikeout.
“That was a big strikeout of Kimmel, who is one of your best hitters, with the infield in and needing contact,” Dunn said. “We have not been as good as we should be or can be with making solid contact with runners on third and less than two outs.”
The Hatters were never able to truly solve Connolly, who was making his first start of the year. The sophomore kept Stetson off balance the entire evening, allowing just the three runs on three hits with five walks and seven strikeouts.
“We had way too many strikeouts tonight, but you have to give their guy credit,” Dunn said. “In the first inning, I could tell that he had a good fastball, but he wasn’t throwing his breaking ball over. I told out guys to sit on the fastball because he is going to struggle with his breaking ball. Then, in the second inning, he suddenly found his breaking ball. That is one of the better performances we have seen all year.”
Connolly’s effort was matched by Stetson freshman right-hander Josh Powers, who turned in a second consecutive strong outing. Powers worked into the sixth inning, allowing just one run on five hits with no walks and five strikeouts. In fact, he did not surrender his first run until after he was lifted from the game in the sixth.
“He doesn’t pitch like a freshman because he is in total control out there and he doesn’t get rattled very easily,” Dunn said. “He did another nice job tonight. I was hoping we could get him through to finish up that inning with him, but we had to go get him. He is awfully good and he is going to keep getting better every time he goes out there.”
Powers was unable to get out of the sixth inning after surrendering a one-out triple to Michael Fransoso and then hitting Ian Leisenheimer. Cameron Griffin came on in relief and got a fly ball to left for the second out, but Fransoso was able to score from third to tie the game at 1-1.
“I wish I could have gotten out of there with no one on, but Cameron came in and did a good job of getting us out of it,” Powers said. “We gave up the run, but we took the lead back and it was good. I knew we would put up some runs eventually, it was just a matter of when. I just had to keep us in the game.”
The Hatters scored their only run of the game to that point in the second inning when a Robert Bruce ground ball scored Spencer Theisen from third. Lashley then drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth with a two-out single.
Maine tied the game again in the eighth inning when pinch hitter Justin Leisenheimer drew a one out walk from Griffin and then scored on an error by Mark Jones at short. The Bears almost took the lead on the same play, but Robert Crews alertly pounced on the ball and gunned down Fransoso at the plate.
Senior Jake Boyd (2-0) got the win by closing out that eighth inning. Robbie Powell came in to work the ninth to earn his third save of the year.
“We have guys who are scuffling out there, but we are still finding ways to win games,” Dunn said. “That was a heck of a team we played tonight. They have a good ball club.”
The Hatters will be back in action on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. when they open a four-game series against Harvard.