SPARTANBURG, SC – For six innings Friday night, the Stetson Hatters played as close to perfect as possible in their series opener against USC Upstate at Harley Park.
Then, in the seventh inning, all of that good play was erased. In a hail of three errors the homestanding Spartans stormed back on the strength of a six-run inning to down the Hatters 8-6.
With the loss, Stetson falls to 15-20 overall on the year, 4-6 in Atlantic Sun Conference play. USC Upstate improved to 21-13 overall and 7-6 in league play.
Stetson sophomore Josh Powers (1-4) was absolutely dominant on the mound for Stetson through the first six innings, holding the Spartans to just five hits, only one of which left the infield.
Behind him, the Hatters scored four times off Upstate starter Brandon Lee (6-3) in the first three innings to give Powers a somewhat comfortable lead. Even when the Spartans were able to manufacture a run in the sixth inning off Powers without hitting the ball out of the infield, Stetson got the run right back when Patrick Mazeika delivered a two-out double and scored on a single by Garrett Russini.
Things went south in a hurry for Stetson after the stretch. After Carlos Garmendia came off the bench to replace Konner Lutz at third base, the first two Upstate hitters tested his defense. The result was an infield single off Garmendia’s glove and an error to put two runners on base.
Powers got a potential double play grounder to short, but the Hatters were only able to get the force at second. That was followed by another ground ball to third that had double-play potential, but the relay throw to first was wild for the second error of the inning, allowing the first Spartans run to score.
“Josh Powers pitched another tremendous game, but we can’t win if we can’t turn a routine double play,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. “We gave them six outs in the seventh inning, we got two double play balls and we could turn either one of them. That is the whole game there. If you can’t turn the double plays you can’t win.”
Jordan Stampler followed with a single through the right side of the infield to score the second Upstate run of the frame. After a Gaither Bumgarner single, Tyler Lesch hit a ground ball to first that Mazeika was unable to come up with, loading the bases.
Powers then surrendered a bases loaded walk to Brandon Patterson to tie the game at 5-5 before Daniel Seeba delivered a three-run double to the gap in left center, giving the Spartans an 8-5 lead and ending the night for Powers, who allowed just one earned run on nine hits over 6.2 innings.
The top of the Stetson lineup did most of the damage for the Hatters against Lee, who scattered 11 hits over 7.1 innings of work. He allowed three earned runs and struck out six.
The Hatters scored single runs in the first two innings. Russini singled home Mazeika in the first and K’shawn Smith singled home Mike Fernland for an unearned run in the second. It was Mazeika who drove in the first of two third inning runs with his second hit, driving home Kevin Fagan. Konner Lutz then delivered a sacrifice fly to plate Tyler Bocock for a 4-0 Stetson lead.
Stetson had a chance to answer the Spartans big inning, loading the bases in the eighth off Lee, but Upstate closer Chad Sobotka came on in relief and got a strikeout and a fly ball to end the Hatters’ scoring chance.
The Hatters mounted a last ditch comeback effort in the ninth, scoring a run on a single by Darby McCormick and putting the tying runs on base. But the comeback fell short when Sobotka got Fernland to fly out to center and then struck out Mitchel Brennan to secure his sixth save of the season.
Mazeika continued to swing a hot bat for Stetson, extending his hit streak to 19 games with another three hit performance. Bocock and Russini both had a pair of hits in the game for the Hatters.
Stampler, Bumgardner and Brody Greer had two hits each for Upstate.
The Hatters will try to even the series on Saturday when they send junior left-hander Austin Perez (4-1, 2.84) to the mound to face junior left-hander David Roseboom (5-1, 3.97). The first pitch is slated for 2 p.m.
All of the games in the weekend series at Upstate are available free on ASun.tv.