The Stetson Hatters did not get off to the kind of start in their final home series of the year that they had hoped for.
Visiting Florida Gulf Coast took advantage of some sloppy play by the Stetson defense and took a 6-2 victory over the Hatters in a game that was delayed by more than three hours by thunderstorms.
The Hatters slip to 34-19 overall and 15-10 in A-Sun play with the loss. FGCU improved to 22-29 and 13-12 in the league as the Eagles battle to get into the A-Sun Tournament.
The loss for Stetson stings even more because Mercer defeated league leading USC Upstate 7-6 in 14 innings on Thursday. The Hatters would have moved to within a half game of the league lead with a win.
FGCU used a three-run fifth inning to back sophomore starting pitcher Ricky Knapp (8-4). The Eagles had five hits in the inning, four off Hatters starter Lindsey Caughel (7-3), who did not get out of the inning. He allowed four runs overall, three earned, on seven hits with a walk and six strikeouts.
That inning erased what had been a 2-1 Stetson lead. The Hatters scored their only runs in the third inning on a two-out, two-run single by Mark Jones. Stetson had other scoring chances in the game, but left nine runners on base, four in scoring position.
Gulf Coast put the game away with a pair of late insurance runs, scoring one in the eighth and another in the ninth.
Knapp almost went the distance for the Eagles, leaving with two out in the ninth after the Hatters got a pair of runners on base. He scattered 10 hits while not allowing a walk. He struck out six while throwing 122 pitches.
Brady Anderson came on the get the final out, a strikeout, to pick up his third save of the year.
Robert Bruce led the Hatters with three hits in the game while Jones had two. Ryan Gebhart, Sean Dwyer, Tito Mendoza and Mike Reeves have two hits apiece for the Eagles.
The Hatters, who still need a victory or a Mercer loss this weekend to secure a berth in the A-Sun tournament will try to get that win on Friday night in the second game of the series. Freshman Josh Powers (4-1, 2.32) will get the call on the mound for Stetson. The game is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch.