TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Stetson baseball team allowed four unearned runs in the eighth inning, giving up a late lead against No. 5 Florida State, and falling by a score of 5-3 in the first of a two-game series in at Dick Howser Stadium on Tuesday.
In his first career start, freshman Kevin Fagan gave the Hatters (10-10) a perfect chance to upset the Seminoles (19-1). The right-hander allowed one run on two hits and a walk in the second inning, but was virtually untouchable throughout the rest of his outing to keep Stetson in the game.
"For seven innings we showed we can be a pretty good team, and obviously Kevin Fagan did a lot more than we were going to ask of him," Stetson head coach Pete Dunn said after the game. "We were going to put him out there, and try to get four or five innings out of him, and he gave us seven strong innings. We're proud of that."
Fagan gave up just one earned run on three hits, while striking out a career best six batters in seven innings pitched. Although the Hatter bats were out-swinging the highly ranked Noles the entire game, it was not until the top of the seventh that Stetson was able to take advantage of it.
Junior Robert Bruce, who has been on an offensive tear as of late, started the Hatter rally with his second single of the game. Sophomore Tyler Bocock then doubled down the left field line, and an error on FSU outfielder D.J. Stewart allowed Bruce to score and tie the game at 1-1.
After a pitching change for Florida State, the Hatter rally continued as Fagan helped his own cause with an RBI single through the right side of the infield. The freshman then came all the way around to score when senior Mitchel Brennan reached first and advanced to second on a throwing error by FSU third baseman Jose Brizuela, giving Stetson a 3-1 lead.
Still holding onto the two-run advantage, the Hatters ran into trouble in the bottom of the eighth. Fagan allowed a single to open the frame, was subsequently relieved, and then rightfully applauded by the Florida State faithful.
The first batter junior Cameron Griffin faced hit a fly to centerfield, but it was dropped by senior James Rasmussen. Back-to-back singles drove in the first FSU run of the inning and loaded up the bases for the Noles. Griffin then got Stewart to hit into a double play, but another run came in to score from third, tying the game at 3-3.
Like many other times this season, it continued to be defensive misplays that cost the Hatters in this one. With senior Joe Dye now on the mound, another dropped fly - this time in right field by Brennan - allowed the fourth FSU run to cross the plate. The Noles scored their final run of the game on a wild pitch by freshman Tyler Warmoth.
"We outhit them, and outplayed them, but once again, as good as Florida State is, they didn't beat us today, we beat ourselves again," Dunn said. "With a team as good as Florida State, you have to complete the deal. We gave them the opportunity, good teams take advantage of it, and that's what they did."
Stetson went down in order in the ninth, giving Florida State the 5-3 victory in game one on Tuesday. Jameis Winston picked up the win after allowing no runs and no hits in two innings of relief. Griffin was credited with the loss after allowing three unearned runs in two thirds of an inning.
The Hatters outhit FSU eight to five in the game, with Bocock and Bruce leading the way with two each, but it was the four Stetson errors that hurt the squad on Tuesday.
Stetson and Florida State will go back at it on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. at Dick Howser Stadium, before the Hatters return home to host Mercer in the team's first Atlantic Sun Conference series of the season this weekend.