The Stetson Hatters were hoping to build some momentum on Sunday on the heels of a dramatic victory over Ohio State late Saturday night, but visiting Connecticut put an early end to those plans and went on to take a 9-3 victory.
The Huskies (6-3) swept through the Bright House Invitational Tournament, taking wins over both Ohio State (5-2) and Central Michigan (6-2) before topping the Hatters on Sunday. All three of the other teams in the tournament left with one victory after the Buckeyes defeated CMU 8-1 to start play on Sunday.
The Hatters (3-6) fell behind early in the game as junior left-hander Austin Perez (1-1) struggled to find his command early in his first start. The Huskies plated a pair of runs in each of the first two innings thanks to six hits and a pair of walks.
“We are not that good a team yet to get behind 4-0,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. “I am not saying we can’t comeback from that, but when you are struggling like we are, that is a tough thing to overcome against a pretty good, veteran team out there against you.”
Perez settled down after the rough start to give the Hatters two good innings of work, which included four consecutive strikeouts at one point.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Warmoth followed Perez on the mound and worked two scoreless innings of his own. He almost got away from his outing unscathed despite allowing a walk and hitting a batter in the seventh. Senior Joe Dye came on in relief and got a ground ball to short that could have produced an inning-ending double play, but the Hatters were unable to complete the play.
“That has plagued us all year,” Dunn said. “We have had double play opportunities to get us out of innings but we didn’t turn it. When you play a good team like UConn, a veteran team, they are going to make you pay for it.”
The Huskies did make Stetson pay, scoring a pair of runs on a two-out single by Jon Testani.
Despite being down six runs at the seventh inning stretch, Stetson showed live against Connecticut starter Brian Ward (1-1) in the seventh, scoring three times on four hits. One run scored on a UConn error and the others on a two-out single by Kevin Fagan.
The chance to turn that inning into some momentum was squashed with the Huskies answered with three runs on their own in the eighth innin.
“The most disappointing thing was that when we cut the lead in half, to 6-3, we had some momentum,” Dunn said. “We went right out there and walked the leadoff hitter and got behind the next hitter and they answered with three. That takes it right out of you.
“When you talk about signature innings, we had an opportunity to have a signature inning by scoring three, shutting them down and coming right back. Instead they turned it into a signature inning for them by giving up three but coming right back with three of their own.”
The Hatters equaled Connecticut’s 11 hits in the game, but the Stetson pitching staff was its own worst enemy in the game, allowing 10 base on balls and two hit batters.
The Huskies were led by senior L.J. Mazzilli, the son of former Major League player and manager Lee Mazzilli. The second baseman had two hits and drove in four of the Huskies runs in the game to cap a weekend in which he hit .583 with two doubles, a triple and five RBI.
Connecticut also got two hits each from Billy Ferriter and Eric Yavarone.
The Hatters got two hits each from Fagan, James Rasmussen and Tanner Blackman. Freshman Patrick Mazeika saw his season-opening eight-game hit streak come to an end.
Stetson will continue what has turned into a 17-game season-opening home-stand on Wednesday night with FIU visits for a single game. That game is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start and will likely feature the first starting assignment for freshman left-hander Adam Schaly.
The Hatters will continue at Melching Field next weekend when Princeton visits for a four-game series.
For tickets to see Stetson baseball this season, contact the Stetson Athletics Ticket Office at 386-738-HATS or visit GoHatters.com and click on the tickets link.