The victory for Stetson (16-8, 1-3) snapped a five-game losing streak. Belmont falls to 16-10 overall and 4-2 in Atlantic Sun play.
The Hatters won despite Mr. Murphy raising his head in the bottom of the ninth inning with Stetson clinging desperately to a 4-3 lead. Closer Robbie Powell (1-0), who was in his third inning of work at the time, had two outs and a runner at first when William Dodd, the Bruins’ none-hole hitter, came to the plate.
The fact that Dodd hits in the nine hole for Belmont is significant because batters in that spot in the order during the week were 15-of-23 at the plate with three home runs and 16 RBI.
Dodd added the final blow when he lifted a fly ball deep to left that Stetson junior Sam Kimmel lost in the sun and swirling wind. The resulting double scored Jamie Ritchie from first to send the game into extra innings.
“It just got into the sun,” Kimmel said of the fly ball. “I put up my glove to block it, but it didn’t help at all.”
“That was a tough play out there,” Hatters coach Pete Dunn said. “I didn’t think it was going to be out of the park. We had talked about making a defensive change before the inning, but Sam has a lot of speed but I didn’t realize the sun was that bad out there.”
Powell said he did not blame Kimmel for not making the play, but blamed himself for making a bad pitch.
“In a situation like that you just have to make your pitches and not over-think anything,” Powell said. “I was pretty upset because I left the ball up. Right off the bat I knew he hit it hard.”
The Hatters finally got things to turn their way in the 10th inning off Belmont closer Garrett Fanchier (0-1). Robert Crews led off with a single and then Mitchel Brennan drew a walk. A sacrifice bunt by Robert Bruce moved both runners into scoring position before Fanchier got Trey Blackman on strikes for the second out.
James Rasmussen came to the plate and was quickly down two strikes before hitting a hard ground ball to short. Instead of making the play, like he had all weekend, Bruins’ shortstop Jaren Breen let the ball kick away from him, allowing both Crews and Brennan to score.
Kimmel was standing on deck when the Hatters reclaimed the lead.
“Ras hit the ball hard with two strikes,” Kimmel said. “That kid has been making those plays the entire series, but we were able to keep the pressure on them and it finally went our way that time.”
Powell came back out for the 10th and put the Bruins away despite giving up a two-out infield single.
“I don’t know if I have ever been as happy with a 1-2 conference weekend,” Dunn said. “When you lose the first two you have to salvage something and our kids really showed some character.
“We kept talking about it, especially after the game on Friday when we had our noses rubbed in it, that we have to keep grinding. We have to keep playing hard because we are a good ball club, but when you get into a funk like this you have to fight your way out of it. Like a boxer who is down on the canvas, you have to get up and keep fighting. Our guys kept fighting back all day.”
Powell got the win, but senior Will Dorsey gave a strong performance as a starter, allowing just three runs on seven hits over six innings of work. Two of the runs he allowed were solo homers in the second and third innings by Judah Akers and Greg Brody. Overall, Belmont blasted nine home runs in the series.
“We talk about the pitchers not trying to do too much and not trying to carry the team on their shoulders,” Dunn said. “The pitchers know the team is struggling. Dorsey did a great job. We went to Powell early, and not even in a save situation, because he had been wasting away out there in the bull pen. He did a great job. He deserved to win it in the ninth, but he bounced back.”
Crews and Kimmel, who doubled and scored the Hatters’ go-ahead run in the ninth inning, led Stetson with two hits each. Breen had three hits for Belmont while Akers and Drew Turner had two each.
The Hatters will get a week off after the long bus ride home before going back on the road for a three-game series at Mercer next week. Coming off the win on Sunday, the team is looking ahead now, instead of back.
“Everyone is staying positive because we know that we can play a lot better,” Kimmel said. “We are just hoping for things to start going our way.”
“This was huge for the whole team,” Powell said. “We have been in a slump and this is one that can maybe get up going in the right direction.”