The Stetson coaching staff went into Wednesday afternoon’s game with No. 7 Florida State at Melching Field looking for a win, but also, just as importantly, looking to protect the Hatters pitching staff for a weekend series with Northern Kentucky.
Both plans went out the window when the Seminoles (40-9) battered freshman starting pitcher Josh Thorne (3-1) for eight runs in the first inning. FSU went on to take a 14-2 victory over the Hatters to sweep the four-game season series.
The only thing that kept the day from being a complete disaster was the effort of senior captain Mitchel Brennan. Primarily and outfielder in his three-year Stetson career, Brennan went to the mound in the second inning and gave the Hatters (23-26) three respectable innings, helping to preserve the pitching staff for the weekend series.
“With the pitching that we had available today, we needed to get five innings out of our starter,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. “We got one and an eight-run deficit before we ever got a bat in our hands. The obviously makes things very difficult.”
With six conference games left before the Atlantic Sun Tournament, the goal on Wednesday was to protect weekend starters Josh Powers and Austin Perez, as well as key relievers like Joe Dye, Tyler Warmoth and Cameron Griffin, to make sure they are all ready for the weekend.
After Thorne had such a rough start, it was Brennan and redshirt freshman Ben Rakus who protected that corp group.
“We knew, going into the game, that in order to have Joe, Cam and Warmoth ready for the weekend, we could only throw them for an inning each, maximum,” Dunn said. “When we scripted it out, we thought that if we could get four or five from Thorne, then we’d have a chance.
“When he just gave us one, I told Mitch to go get loose. He didn’t volunteer, but he didn’t object either. He gladly did it and didn’t do a bad job for a guy who hasn’t been on the mound, even in the bullpen, this year. That is not an easy thing to do. He got us to a point where we didn’t have to use guys that we didn’t want to use.”
Brennan had pitches in games for Stetson before, but not since April 15 of the 2011 season, his first with the Hatters. He more than doubled his career work load with three innings on Wednesday and, even though he allowed six runs on five hits, his work will have a lasting impact.
Rakus also had an important role in preserving the rest of the pen. After a rough inning plus of work on Tuesday, he came back with three solid innings Wednesday, holding the Seminoles scoreless on just two hits.
“Chris (Roberts) was adamant about us needing to get Rakus back out on the mound after last night,” Dunn said. “He needed to get back on the horse and I think it was very important to get him out there and let him have some success. I know he feels a lot better about himself today that he did after last night.”
Both Dye and Griffin worked an inning late in the game, but neither was overextended in working scoreless frames.
FSU used six pitchers in the game in an effort to preserve their staff for a pair of big ACC series coming up, at North Carolina State this weekend and at home against Clemson next week. Combined, the six Noles’ hurlers held Stetson to just two runs on nine hits while walking just one and striking out six. Starter Bryant Holtmann (3-0) got the victory in a pre-planned controlled start.
FSU banked out six hits, five singles and a double, in the first inning to go with three walks to do all the offensive damage needed in the game. The Seminoles added three runs in both the third and fourth innings. Only three of the 14 FSU hits in the game went for extra bases, all doubles.
Stetson scored single runs in the second inning off Holtmann and another in the seventh off Kyle Bird. The Hatters had three hits in the second, a single by Tyler Bocock, a double by Darby McCormick and an RBI single by K’shawn Smith. A hit batter, two singles and an error in the seventh opened the door for the second Stetson run.
McCormick and James Rasmussen led Stetson with two hits each. Seth Miller led FSU with three hits and three runs scored. The Seminoles also got two hits and four RBI from D.J. Stewart, two hits and two RBI from Marcus Davis, and two hits each from Casey Smith and Giovanny Alfonzo.
Tuesday’s offensive star for the Seminoles, freshman Jameis Winston, was hitless at the plate, but worked three perfect innings on the mound.
“You just have to put this behind you,” Dunn said of the two losses to FSU. “You don’t like it, and it is embarrassing, but we have to get back to work tomorrow and get focused on the weekend and next week. Our magic number is one and we have to focus on securing ourselves a tournament berth on Friday and then point to that.
“We know that we have no chance for an at-large bid, so our only chance is to keep working, try to put a run together down the stretch, and hope to get hot in the tournament. Stranger things have happened.”
The Hatters and Norse will meet for the first time on Friday night at Melching Field with the first pitch slated for 6:30 p.m. Saturday will be senior day for the Hatters five seniors – Dye, Brennan, Rasmussen, Chad Rood and Kurt Schluter – and will also be a 6:30 p.m. start following graduation ceremonies.
Sunday’s series, and regular season home finale is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start.