Stetson coach Pete Dunn told his Hatters baseball team on Saturday night that he is looking forward to the day when another team beats them. In his eyes, so far this year that hasn’t happened.
The Hatters were their own worst enemies again on Sunday, combining physical and mental errors throughout the day in a 7-5 loss to visiting Fairfield. The Stags (5-9) were able to split the four game series with Stetson (10-9) by taking the final two games in similar fashion.
“I don’t care if we lose if the other team beats us,” Dunn said. “That hasn’t happened yet. You aren’t going to win every game, but there is only one team that has beaten us regularly this year, and that is ourselves. It is really frustrating and disappointing. No one is beating us, we are beating ourselves. Last night and today are just two examples of that.”
On Sunday, the mistakes were both obvious – two errors at shortstop – and more subtle.
Stetson senior starting pitcher Chad Rood gave the Hatters another strong performance, allowing only a first inning solo homer to Anthony Hajjar through five innings of work. It was in the sixth inning when Rood, and the Hatters, first experienced major problems.
“Chad did what he has been doing,” Dunn said. “He gave us a good outing today after doing a good job against Bethune on Tuesday. It is a shame that we find a way to waste it when we do get a good effort on the mound by throwing the ball all over the place, or by not catching it.”
With the game tied at 1-1 after Stetson manufactured a run in the second, Mike Maschi led off the sixth by sneaking a ball inside the bag at third and into the corner for a double. That was followed by an infield single by Rob LoPinto.
Things started going bad when Mike Bennett dropped down a sacrifice bunt, and Rood fielded and threw to third, unsuccessfully, in an attempt to cut down the lead runner. With the bases loaded, Rood got Hajjar to hit a potential double-play grounder to short, but junior K’shawn Smith’s throw to second was wild, allowing two runs to score.
After a pitching change, Ryan Plourde greeted Stetson’s Cameron Griffin with a two-run single, giving Fairfield a 5-1 lead.
“No one can win if you don’t make plays,” Dunn said. “The frustrating part is that they are routine plays. If they were challenging plays where you had to back hand the ball, or make a throw on the run, or charge a ball, that is one thing. But routine ground balls, not being able to play catch and throw the ball back to the pitcher. If you can’t do that then you can win.”
Facing an uphill battle, the Hatters came charging back, scoring four times in the seventh inning against the Fairfield bullpen. Garrett Russini singled to drive in the first run, the second scored on a wild pitch and then two more scored on a single by the red-hot Robert Bruce.
The junior is the Hatters’ leading hitter on the year after going 8-for-15 in the weekend series.
Like has happened often this year, the Hatters were unable to maintain the momentum from their big inning. Fairfield answered by taking advantage of a mental mistake to steal a run. Bennett opened the inning with a single off Stetson senior reliever Joe Dye (2-1), who then walked Hajjar.
After a sacrifice but moved the runners up and an intentional walk loaded the bases, Jack Giannini drove in the winning run with a bouncing ball right at the second base bag. Kevin Fagan fielded the ball and got an out, but was unable to prevent the go-ahead run from scoring.
The Stags then pulled a double-steal to plate an insurance run on a play when the Hatters had a play in place to stop it. Russini’s throw, which was supposed to go to Dye on the mound, was high and went through to second base, allowed the Stags to steal the run.
Dunn said the lack of execution by the Hatters, both on the mound and on defense, was key to the two losses to Fairfield, and has been the primary reason why Stetson is just a game over .500 after 19 games.
“You have to pitch and you have to play defense and, if you do that, you are going to be in the game,” Dunn said. “You may not win every game, but you are going to be in every game. If you pitch, and you pick up the ball and throw it, then you are going to be in every game. If we had done that today, we might not have won the game, but we would have been in much better shape.”
Fairfield reliever Kyle Capaldo (2-2) earned the victory with 1.2 scoreless innings of work. Anthony DiMauro worked the ninth for the Stags to pick up his first save of the year.
Stetson will now travel away from home for the first time in 2013 when they head to Tallahassee on Tuesday for two games against a nationally-ranked Florida State team that was undefeated going into the weekend before dropping a game on Saturday at Maryland.
After the two-game set with the Seminoles, the Hatters will return home to open Atlantic Sun Conference play against preseason league favorite Mercer next weekend.
“We have to flush this one,” Dunn said. “It is a whole new ball game now. I just wouldn’t have believed going into the season that we would be this bad defensively. We have guys who have made the plays before, but aren’t now. Once it gets to this point it is a mental thing. We are going to have to look at our options and see what we can do.”