The Stetson University baseball program honored members of the military and U.S. service veterans on Tuesday night prior to squaring off with South Florida at Melching Field.
The Hatters and Bulls then decided to have a war of attrition over the next four and half hours, with the teams combining to use 40 players, including seven pitchers each. It was the Bulls that managed to outlast the Hatters, scoring four times in the 13th inning to take a 6-2 victory.
The loss dropped Stetson to 17-21 on the year. USF improved to 23-14 with its ninth straight win, a streak that started when the Bulls downed the Hatters 12-8 in Tampa on April 2. The teams will meet once more this year, on May 1 back at USF.
Tuesday nights game came down to one simple factor – the team with the most pitching would win.
“I think both teams wanted to win, but both teams wiggled their way out of trouble several times,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. “As hard as our kids played, and as proud as I am of their effort, USF played better than we did tonight. They turned double plays to get out of innings several times and got strikeouts when they needed them.
“It got to the point where we had to be concerned about our pitching for this weekend. We realize that the weekend is the most important thing. There were a lot of things that we could have done differently with our pitchers, but then we might not have had them available this weekend.”
The game turned in the 13th inning after the Hatters made the decision to remove redshirt freshman Tyler Warmoth from the game after he had already worked three and two-thirds innings. Warmoth held the Bulls in check over that time, allowing just one hit and one walk.
South Florida took advantage of the change. Freshman Brandon Diaz (0-2) walked the first two USF batters in the 13th inning on just nine pitches before redshirt freshman Ike Greenspon came in to try to get out of the jam.
Things went south quickly for the Hatters when James Ramsay delivered what was intended to be a sacrifice bunt, but was so perfectly placed that he reached on a hit, loading the bases.
Jimmy Falla followed with a double to the gap in left-center. He and Ramsay then scored on a single to right by Chris Norton to put the final nails in the Stetson coffin.
USF reliever Adrian Puig (2-0) closed out Stetson with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 13th to get the win. He retired seven of the eight hitters he faced, with the only runner reaching against him on an error.
The Hatters were able to push the game into extra innings by plating a pair of runs in the seventh inning off USF reliever Janick Serrallonga. Sophomore Darby McCormick had the big hit in the inning after the opposing coaches had a lineup chess match when he delivered a two-out, two-run single to left off Jordan Strittmatter. McCormick actually pinch-hit for pinch-hitter Mike Fernland, who never made it to the plate because of a pitching change.
The Hatters had chances to win the game in the 10th and 11th innings. Stetson got K’shawn Smith to third base with one out in the 10th, but left him stranded when reliever Nolan Thomas struck out both Kevin Fagan and, after an intentional walk, Patrick Mazeika, to end the threat.
Mazeika, who entered the game with the nation’s longest active hitting streak, was hitless in six at bats in the game.
The Hatters got a runner into scoring position again in the 11th inning, but Tanner Blackman hit into an inning-ending double play, one of three turned by the Bulls in the game, to end the threat.
USF got on the board first in the game, scoring a single run in the third inning off Stetson starter Adam Schaly. Alex Mendez opened the inning with a double to left, moved up on a single by Ramsay and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Falla.
That was the only run Schaly allowed in what was hit best start of the year. He scattered five hits over 4.1 innings of work, walked three and struck out four.
USF added a run in the seventh off Ben Rakus when Kyle Teaf drew a walk to open the inning, was sacrificed to second and then eventually scored on a single just over the glove of Carlos Garmendia at third base off the bat of Norton.
“Both teams stepped up and made plays when they needed it, they just had more pitching tonight than we did,” Dunn said.
“This game will hurt tonight, but I don’t think the kids will dwell on it. I am proud of them. They played hard. There are just some games where you just have to walk away with your head up after you get beat by a better team. Tonight, that was it.”
Stetson managed just five hits in the game off the USF pitchers, and three of those came off the bats of pinch hitters. Ramsay and Norton had three hits each to lead the Bulls.
The Hatters will be back in action at Melching Field on Friday night when they open a three-game Atlantic Sun Conference series against East Tennessee State. The Bucs are currently tied for second place in the league race with a 10-5 record in conference play.
The first pitch on Friday night is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.