The Stetson Hatters were forced to empty the tool shed on Friday night in an effort to win the first game of a four-game weekend series against visiting Princeton at Melching Field.
A total of 20 Hatters saw action in the game by the time freshman Carlos Garmendia singled through a drawn in Princeton infield in the 12th inning to give Stetson a 7-6 victory. It is the Hatters’ second 12-inning victory in the last week, following a 3-2 win over Ohio State last Saturday.
“It is ironic that we won that game by getting runners on base because of them not throwing strikes, the same way that we got into trouble by not throwing strikes,” Hatters head coach Pete Dunn said. “You just hope things like that even out, and tonight it did.
“Carlos did a good job to end the game. He took a terrible swing at a ball in the dirt and I knew that is all he was going to see. He was able to put the bat head on the ball and pull it through the drawn in infield.”
The night got off to a bad start for Stetson (5-6), even before the first pitch. Senior pitcher Kurt Schluter was scratched from his scheduled start just 10 minutes before game time after being unable to get loose in the bullpen. Senior Chad Rood stepped in on short notice and gave Stetson a great outing in what was his first career start.
“Certainly what Rood did was big,” Dunn said. “We didn’t know until about 10 minutes before the game, and for him to go out and give us that kind of performance was big.”
Rood worked four shutout innings, allowing just two hits and one walk with four strikeouts. It was when the Hatters went to the bullpen that things started the breakdown.
Freshman left-hander Garrison Banas and did not record an out in the fifth, allowing three runs on two hits, a walk and a hit batter. Tyler Warmoth did the best he could, coming in with the bases loaded and no one out. He allowed a pair of sacrifice flies and got a ground ball to get out of the inning without further damage.
Warmoth three shutout innings through the middle of the game, giving Stetson time to battle back.
The Hatters did just that in the seventh when they finally were able to break through against Princeton starter Zak Hermans. Entering the seventh inning Hermans had allowed just three base runners, two on singles by Robert Bruce and one on an error in the first inning.
In the seventh Patrick Mazeika got things started with a one-out single. That was followed by a walk and an RBI single by Garrett Russini. After Hermans was lifted for reliever A.J. Goetz, Garmendia doubled down the line in left to drive in two and tie the game.
Control problems on the mound cost Stetson again in the eighth inning when junior Cameron Griffin faced just two batters, walking both. Freshman Kevin Fagan (2-0) came on in relief and got three fly balls to get out of the inning, but the second scored a runner from third after a passed ball moved him up 90 feet.
The Hatters got that run back in the ninth when Mazeika led off the inning with a long solo homer off Nick Donatiello.
Stetson had a chance to win the game in the 10th, but left the bases loaded when Donatiello struck out James Rasmussen.
The Tigers (0-5) reclaimed the lead in the 11th when Mike Ford followed a one-out walk with a two-run homer off Fagan.
With their backs against the wall again, the Hatters found a way to rally in the bottom of the inning. A leadoff walk was followed by back-to-back one-out singles Bruce and Tanner Blackman. K’shawn Smith followed with a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 6-5 and then Fagan delivered a shot up the middle that ricocheted off Donatiello to Alex Flink at second base. Flink had no play, but made a poor throw, allowing Bruce to score all the way from second to tie the game.
Fagan went back to the mound and pitched a 1-2-3 12th the set the stage for Garmendia’s walk-off single in the bottom of the inning.
“To come back from two runs down in extra innings was good,” Dunn said. “It wasn’t pretty, but some guys really stepped up. I can’t say enough about Kevin Fagan and Rood, and Tyler Warmoth in the middle, but we have to throw strikes.
“We can’t go out there and get ourselves behind just because we can’t throw the ball over the plate. That is what we did tonight. We have to take wins any way we can get them and hope that we can learn from them. We made enough mistakes tonight that we probably didn’t deserve to win.”
Fagan worked five innings in the game to get the victory, allowing just the two runs on two hits with three walks and six strikeouts. Danny Thomson (0-1) was the fourth Princeton pitcher in the game and took the loss.
Bruce led the Stetson offense with three hits while Mazeika and Garmendia had two hits each. Peter Owens and Steve Harrington had two hits each to lead Princeton.
The two teams will get right back to action on Saturday when they meet in a day-night double-header. The first game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start with the nightcap set for 7 p.m.
“It is a good win, but we have a long way to go,” Dunn said. “We have to keep grinding and teach these young kids and help them to understand what it takes to win on this level.
“This was not the kind of game you want to have right before a double-header. Tomorrow we will just have to come out and do all that we can to win the first game before thinking about the second game. When we get there, we’ll worry about trying to win it before we think about Sunday.”