It was an exciting conclusion to the regular season. Heading into its final game Stetson needed a victory over JU, as well as some help from Mercer University with a win over Belmont up in Macon, Georgia. Mercer jumped out to an early lead and then held on late for a 9-8 win. The Hatters, meanwhile, battled back from a 6-1 deficit to defeat the Dolphins at Melching Field.
JU scored first with a run in the top of the 1st inning before Stetson answered with a run of its own in the bottom of the 4th. Aaron Crittenden (Fort Myers, Fla.) drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded scoring Jeff Simpson (Valrico, Fla.).
With the score tied 1-1 in the top of the 5th inning Jacksonville wasted no time in regaining its lead with five runs on four base hits. Stetson showed its character in the bottom half of the inning and responded with five runs of its own.
Jacob deGrom (DeLeon Springs, Fla.) led off with a walk and then ended up at 3rd base after consecutive singles by Kurt Schluter (Jupiter, Fla.) and Sean Emory (Miami, Fla.). Simpson then walked and picked up the first RBI of the inning. Ryan Lashley (Lake Worth, Fla.) was next and he delivered a single to left center that scored Emory and Schluter. Spencer Theisen (Longwood, Fla.) knocked in the fourth run on a fielder's choice and then scored the fifth run on a sacrifice fly to left field by Robert Crews (Port Charlotte, Fla.).
The eventual winning run came in the 6th inning when Schluter led off with a single to center and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Simpson. The final run was scored by Crews in the 7th. With one out he ripped a double deep down the line in left, moved to third on a fly ball to right by deGrom, and then scored on an error by the third baseman.
Stetson starting pitcher David Burns (Seminole, Fla.) threw 4 2/3 innings allowing five runs on five hits. He struck out four and walked two. Schluter moved from third base to the mound in the 5th inning and proved why he is one of the Hatters' go-to two-way players. He tossed the final 4 1/3 innings and gave up just one run on three hits and struck out four Dolphins. At the plate he was 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored.
"Schluter coming in and shutting them down was very important", said Stetson head coach Pete Dunn. "He pitched extremely well and gave us the opportunity to take the lead and win the ball game."
Stetson dropped the first game of the day 9-7 to Jacksonville. With a doubleheader sweep the home team could have reached the tournament without any help from its friends.
"It wasn't pretty, but now its a second season and we are in. Now we have the opportunity to go up there and get it together", said Dunn.
Hatters fans will be able to watch the tournament games pay-per-view on their computers with A-Sun TV. Go to www.atlanticsun.org and look for the links. Free Live Stats for the Stetson games will be available at www.gohatters.com.