JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Stetson and Jacksonville baseball team’s combined to throw 13 pitchers and hit 23 singles as the Hatters (13-17, 2-5) fell to the Dolphins (11-19, 4-3) by a score of 9-7 in the first of a three-game Atlantic Sun Conference series at Sessions Stadium on Friday.
The Dolphins took an early 4-0 lead on a walk and five straight singles in the bottom of the second. Freshman Kevin Fagan, in just his third start of the season, gave up a walk in between a pair of ground outs, and was one out away from getting out of the frame. That was when Jacksonville rattled off five straight base hits to take the early advantage.
Fagan came back out in the third inning to put the Dolphins away in order, before Stetson got one run back in the top of the fourth. Freshman Patrick Mazeika led off the frame with a single up the middle, extending his hitting streak to 14 games, and advanced to second on an error by the center fielder. Two straight ground outs brought Mazeika around to score and made it 4-1.
After JU countered with a run of its own in the bottom of the fifth, each team scored in the sixth inning to make it 6-2 heading into the final three innings. That’s when the Hatters were able to knock Dolphin starter and three-time A-Sun Pitcher of the Week Chris Anderson out of the game.
Senior Mitchel Brennan started the rally with a single to left field, and advanced to second on a single to right by junior Mike Fernland. After Fagan drew a walk to load the bases, a fielder’s choice bunt by sophomore Tyler Bocock spelled the last at bat Anderson would face.
The Hatters then benefited from Jacksonville falling prey to one of the issues that have plagued Stetson throughout the year. A routine pop up by Mazeika was muffed by the Dolphins’ second baseman, allowing both Fernland and Fagan to score, making it 6-4 in favor of Jacksonville at the stretch.
Senior Joe Dye and junior Cameron Griffin, Stetson’s fourth and fifth relievers of the night, combined to shut the Dolphins down in the seventh, but the Hatters’ bullpen fell apart in the eighth. JU opened the inning with a pair of singles, and Griffin gave way to freshman Josh Thorne.
The right-hander threw a wild pitch, gave up two singles, and walked a batter to give two runs back to the Dolphins. Freshman Adam Schaly then relieved Thorne, and hit the first batter he faced to give Jacksonville one more run in the eighth, which made it 9-4 heading into the final frame of play.
Stetson was able to make it close in the ninth, using a JU error, two walks, and two singles by Mazeika and sophomore Garrett Russini to score three runs and make it 9-7 with just one out in the ninth. A fielder’s choice and a ground out ended the game, and gave Jacksonville the game one victory.
“I’m proud that we kept fighting back,” Stetson head coach Pete Dunn said after the game. “We got behind early against Anderson, one of the best pitchers in the conference, we kept fighting, we kept coming back, and we finally got him out of the ball game, but every time we started to get close and were in striking distance, we go out and give up runs because we don’t throw the ball over the plate.
“It’s so disappointing not to throw strikes,” Dunn continued on about the Hatters, who finished with seven walks on the night. “There’s no excuse on this level, and at this time of the year, for guys to come out of the bullpen and not throw strikes. We walked seven. You can’t win a game putting that many guys on base without having to take the bat off their shoulder.”
Anderson improved to 5-2 on the season after allowing just one earned run on six hits, striking out five, and walking one in 6.2 innings pitched. Fagan fell to 2-2 on the year after allowing four runs, three of which were earned, on six hits, four strike outs, and two walks in 3.1 innings of work. Adam Maxon earned his fourth save.
Mazeika led the Hatters with a three-for-five night at the plate. The freshman drove in two runs and scored one. Senior James Rasmussen also drove in a pair of runs, while Russini collected the Hatters’ fifth RBI on Friday.
“It’s disappointing,” Dunn concluded. “Until we start doing a better job of [throwing strikes], we’re not going to be able to win with any consistency. Right now our bullpen is not doing its job.”
Stetson and Jacksonville will be back in action on Saturday for game two of the series. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. at Sessions Stadium in Jacksonville.