SPARTANBURG, SC – Like in Friday night’s series opener, the Stetson Hatters played near perfect baseball for six innings on Saturday against USC Upstate.
Also like on Friday, the homestanding Spartans answered the bell after the seventh inning stretch. This time, however, the Hatters responded to the challenge and went on take a 10-2 victory to draw even in the weekend series.
Stetson improved to 16-20 overall in snapping a three-game losing skid. The Hatters are now 5-6 in Atlantic Sun Conference play. The Spartans fall to 21-14 overall and 7-7 in league play.
Stetson responded well to adversity on Saturday after letting a victory slip through their fingers on Friday night.
“There were two things I told this team yesterday,” Hatters coach Pete Dunn said. “First, these freshmen and young players have to stop playing like freshmen. We are 35 games into the season and we can’t be playing like freshmen anymore. More importantly, our veteran players have to play better. We haven’t gotten great play from our veteran players on a consistent basis and that has to improve. Those guys have to play up to their capabilities every day.”
The Hatters took a 3-0 lead to the seventh inning on Saturday behind another strong pitching performance by junior left-hander Austin Perez (5-1). But, Perez ran into his first trouble in the seventh after allowing a pair of ground singles through the infield and a walk to load the bases with no one out.
Senior reliever Joe Dye came on in relief and promptly allowed back-to-back RBI singles to Tyler Miller and Jordan Stampler to cut the Hatters’ lead to 3-2. With the bases still loaded, Dye got the 2012 A-Sun Player of the Year Gaither Bumgardner to line into a double play.
“The double play was huge,” Dunn said. “They had the bases loaded and were one big base hit away from turning the tide. We were able to get the line drive to shortstop and turn the double play to help get out of it with a 3-2 lead when it didn’t look good.”
Freshman Tyler Warmoth then came on and got Tyler Lesch to pop out to third base to end the inning.
With the lead down to one run, the Hatters put together their biggest offensive inning of the season in the eighth inning, scoring seven runs on just two hits against four Upstate pitchers. That quartet combined to hit three batters in the inning and walk three more.
The big blow in the frame was a pinch-hit two-run single by Konner Lutz to push the Stetson lead back to three runs. Kyle Pitts drove in a run with a fielder’s choice ground out and Kevin Fagan delivered an RBI single. Patrick Mazeika capped the frame with a bases loaded single to right-center that was misplayed, allowing all three runners to cross the plate.
Upstate starting pitcher David Roseboom (5-2) took the loss after allowing four runs on six hits through seven innings. He walked three and struck out six.
Perez won his third straight A-Sun start and saw his streak of 14 consecutive scoreless innings come to an end in the seventh, but allowed just the two runs on six hits while walking two and striking out four.
“That is what AP does well for us,” Dunn said. “He goes out there and throws the ball over the plate. If you look at that lineup today you would have thought it was a bad matchup because they had nine right-handers. He just kept the ball away from them and they were never able to mount much. He got a big win for us last Sunday up and JU and got another must-win for us today.”
The Hatters gave Perez and early lead by scoring single runs in the second, third and fourth innings.
Freshman Carlos Garmendia blasted his first home run of the year in the second and later added a double to bounce back from a rough outing on Friday.
“Carlos did a great job,” Dunn said. “He fielded a lot of chances over there without and error and he swung the bat well. He is going to be a good player for us, but he is a typical freshman. He is going to play really well in one game and then struggle in the next. I was real proud that he stepped up today.”
Mazeika delivered an RBI single through the right side of the infield in the third, plating Fagan. The hit extended his hitting streak to 20 games, which ties him with Kennesaw State’s Bo Way for the longest streak in the A-Sun this year. He had another multiple-hit game and drove in two.
Sophomore Kyle Pitts, who was in the starting lineup for the first time in his career, took advantage of his opportunity to play by lacing a run-scoring double down the left field line in the fourth to plate Tanner Blackman. The hit was the first of his career.
“Pitts did a great job,” Dunn said. “Obviously we were frustrated with our infield play last night, not making the double plays, and we gave him a start and he did a nice job. He didn’t get a lot of chances in the field, but he swung the bat well. He did a nice job and will be back out there again tomorrow.”
The trio of Mazeika, Garmendia and Pitts led Stetson’s 11-hit attack with two hits each. In addition to solid pitching and offensive production, the Hatters played an errorless game on Saturday. In Friday’s 8-6 loss, seven of the eight Upstate runs were unearned.
“Not making any errors is great,” Dunn said. “We haven’t been the most consistent fielding team, but it is a process. We aren’t where we want to be right now, but we have to keep learning and getting better. It has been frustrating at times because we’ll take one step forward and two steps back and we haven’t been able to get on a run.”
Jordan Stampler, Bumgardner, Trey Richardson and Tyler Miller had two hits each to account for eight of the nine Spartans hits in the game.
The Hatters will try to win their second straight road conference series tomorrow when senior Chad Rood (0-2, 6.04) takes the mound to face Bumgardner (4-0, 2.93). A win would essentially move Stetson past Upstate in the standings and even the Hatters’ league record on the year.
“This was a big win for us and we will enjoy it for a few hours,” Dunn said. “We have to come out tomorrow and play well with the opportunity to get two out of three. That would be huge.”