This is the first time the A-Sun tournament has ever been held in Nashville. Stetson has hosted the event in DeLand for the past eight years and 13 times total since joining the conference. Lipscomb University is the the 2010 host.
Stetson (27-29-14-13) enters the tournament as the #6 seed and will play in the opening game at 12:00 p.m. against #1 Florida Gulf Coast (37-18, 25-5). Game two will feature #2 Mercer against #5 Jacksonville at 4:00 p.m., followed by #3 ETSU versus #4 North Florida at 8:00 p.m. in game three. All times listed are eastern time. The tournament bracket is attached so Stetson fans can follow the Hatters all the way to the championship.
Stetson comes into post-season play on a high after its come-from-behind 8-6 victory over Jacksonville in the final game of the season to earn a berth in the A-Sun tournament. The 2010 season has been a series of streaks for the Hatters. After a 3-8 start Stetson won five in a row and then dropped four straight. On March 20 Stetson defeated FGCU 10-8 in the final game of the series and sparked an 16-7 run over the next 23 games that included series sweeps of Mercer on the road and Lipscomb at home. Coming down the home stretch however, the Hatters were a disappointing 3-10.
"It wasn't pretty and we certainly are not where we expected to be when the season started, but now it is a second season and we are in", said Stetson head coach Pete Dunn. "Now we have the opportunity to go up to Nashville and get it together."
In the opening game against FGCU Stetson will likely face the A-Sun's top pitcher and a projected first round major league baseball draft choice Chris Sale. The Hatters have faced the junior standout three times in his career. In 2008 Sale threw the final 3 2/3 innings of a 12-inning 7-5 win for the Eagles. Last year Stetson defeated Sale 2-1 in Fort Myers on a sacrifice fly in the 8th inning and an excellent pitching performance by Andy Mauldin (7 inn.), Ryan Sweat (1 inn.) and Robbie Powell (1 inn.).
Earlier this season Sale and Stetson's Jacob deGrom faced off in a battle of aces in the series opener with the Eagles coming out on top of a 4-2 final score. It was the second career start for deGrom who remains as Stetson's #1 starter. He enters the tournament second on the team with a 4.24 ERA and in strike outs with 54. Look for deGrom to take his second shot at Sale and the Eagles Wednesday morning in Nashville.
As a team Stetson is batting .327 in A-Sun conference games this season. Leading the way is Sean Emory and Spencer Theisen hitting .452 and .433 respectively. Also swinging hot bats are Jeff Simpson, Ryan Lashley, and Nick Rickles. Simpson is 34-for-88 (.386) with six stolen bases and 23 runs scored. Lashley is batting .350 and slugging just under .600 at .598. He has 11 doubles, six home runs and 28 RBI. Overall on the season he leads the team with 11 home runs and 50 RBI. Rickles is batting .327 with 10 doubles and 20 RBI in A-Sun games.
The Hatters are no strangers to A-Sun tournament play. Stetson has won six Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Titles (1988, 1989, 1990, 2000, 2005 and 2006) and have finished as the tournament runner up five times (1987, 1991, 1995, 1997 and 2003). Since 1987 Stetson has qualified for the A-Sun Tournament every year except one (1999). Stetson has a 42-33 all-time record in A-Sun tournament games. As far as possible opponents this week in Nashville all-time the Hatters are 4-0 against Mercer, 1-1 versus ETSU and 1-3 against Jacksonville in A-Sun tournament games. FGCU and UNF are new to the A-Sun tournament. Stetson is 3-6 all-time against the Eagles and 13-12 versus the Ospreys.
Stetson game summaries, box scores and video interviews will be available at www.gohatters.com.