Stetson baseball fans will get their first glimpse of the new-look Hatters tonight at 6:30 when Stetson hosts Saint Joseph’s to open the 2013 season.
The Hatters return just two starters from the 2012 opening day lineup. Seniors Kurt Schluter and Mitchel Brennan will be joined by eight new players in the Stetson lineup when they take the field tonight.
The task at hand this weekend will not be an easy one. Saint Joseph’s has a veteran team under fifth-year head coach Fritz Hamburg and is expecting to contend for the Atlantic 10 Conference title.
Contending for conference titles is always the expectation for Stetson and, as newly elected Hall of Fame coach Pete Dunn enters his 34th season at the helm for his alma mater, expectations this year are no different, even with a young club.
“We have got to get our feet under us early because the schedule is very tough,” Dunn said. “Saint Joseph’s comes in here with a veteran club and I am sure they are going to be excited to be in Florida and out of the cold weather. We have to be able to match their enthusiasm and intensity.”
The Hatters’ success this year, especially early on, will lie with the starting pitchers. Schluter is looking to bounce back to the form that helped him earn All-America honors in 2011 while also earning Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year honors.
He will be making his second consecutive opening-night start. He worked six innings in the opener last year against George Washington to earn the win in a 19-7 Stetson victory. He finished the 2012 season with a 5-3 mark and a 5.45 ERA.
Schluter will be opposed in the opening game by junior right-hander Kyle Mullen. A native of Berwyn, Pa., Mullen was a first-team All A-10 pick last year and was also named the Philadelphia Big 5 Pitcher of the Year. He posted a 6-4 mark with a 3.07 ERA with 90 strikeouts in 105 innings of work.
Mullen posted a perfect 5-0 record in A-10 play last year with a 1.99 ERA and the Hawks have won each of his last 13 league starts.
The Hatters will be looking to continue their success against teams from Pennsylvania in the weekend series. Stetson owns an all-time record of 51-7 against 12 Keystone State teams, including an all-time series record of 16-2 against the Hawks. This will be the first meeting between the teams since the 2005 season.
Stetson will also be looking to increase a modest two-game season opening win streak. In addition to the win over George Washington last year, the Hatters opened the 2011 campaign with a 6-3 victory over Georgia. All-time Stetson is 50-42-2 in season openers. Coach Dunn’s teams have posted a 22-11 mark in his 33 previous opening days.
The Hatters and Hawks will play the second game of their weekend series on Saturday at 2 p.m. with the series finale set for Sunday at 1 p.m.