JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Behind a complete game on the mound from junior Austin Perez, the Stetson baseball team (15-17, 4-5) defeated Jacksonville (11-21, 4-5) by a score of 8-1 to win the final tilt of the weekend and capture the squad’s first Atlantic Sun Conference series victory of the season.
“AP made one bad pitch in the first inning, giving up an 0-2 RBI base hit, and then settled in, and was just really, really good,” Stetson head coach Pete Dunn said of Perez on Sunday afternoon.
Really good he was, allowing just six hits in the first complete game of the season for the junior. Perez struck out four batters, walked just one, and retired 13 straight batters before giving up a single in the bottom of the ninth.
Jacksonville scored its only run of the game after a pair of singles made it 1-0 in favor of the Dolphins in the bottom of the first. It was all Hatters after that, as not only was Perez nearly untouchable, but the Stetson bats delivered, and the defense failed to record an error for the second straight game.
“It’s a pretty simple game,” Dunn said. “If we go out and have good pitching, play good defense, swing the bat well – and we really talked about the short game – everything we talked about before the game, we really went out and did a good job with.
“We got bunts down, we advanced runners, we executed some hit and runs, we got some key base hits with two outs, and we got runners in from third,” Dunn continued. “It was a great effort. We talk about games that you use as a template, and that was a template game right there. That just shows you if we play the game like we’re capable of, we’re going to have a chance to win. That’s all you can ask.”
Stetson took its first lead of the game with a pair of runs on the third inning. Junior K’Shawn Smith led off the frame with a single to left field, and advanced to second on failed pickoff attempt by Jacksonville pitcher Alex McRae. He then came around to score on a single by freshman Kevin Fagan.
The Hatter rally continued when sophomore Tyler Bocock laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Fagan to second. After freshman Patrick Mazeika was hit by a pitch, Saturday’s hero sophomore Garrett Russini drove in Fagan with another single up the middle to give Stetson a 2-1 advantage.
It was again Smith leading off in the fifth when Stetson scored three more runs to make it 5-1. This time the second baseman was hit by a pitch to put the leadoff Hatter on. After Fagan singled to center, Bocock advanced the runners once again with a sac bunt.
Mazeika drove in both Smith and Fagan with the first extra base hit of the series for Stetson. The first baseman, who extended his hitting streak to 15 games on Sunday, hit a double down the right field line to put the Hatters up 4-1. Senior James Rasmussen then drove in the third run of the frame with a single to center field.
After Perez recorded his second of three straight perfect innings in the bottom of the seventh, Stetson added two runs in the eighth to put this one nearly out of reach for the Dolphins. Senior Mitchel Brennan started the mini rally with a double to the gap in right center.
Smith tallied his third single of the day to drive in sophomore Tanner Blackman, who came in to pinch run for Brennan. A single by Fagan, his third of the game, sent Smith to second, and a wild pitch advanced the junior to third. With his third sacrifice of the day, this time of the fly ball variety, Bocock drove in Smith to make it 7-1 in favor of Stetson.
The Hatters added one run in the ninth inning to finish with the 8-1 victory. Perez improved to 4-1 on the season with the win, while JU’s McRae fell to 2-3 with the loss after allowing five runs on nine hits in 5.1 innings.
Fagan, Mazeika, and Smith all finished with three hits on the day, while Mazeika’s two runs batted in led the Hatters. Jacksonville was led at the plate by Dylan Dillard, who went three-for-four on a trio of doubles.
Stetson will get right back at it with a road game at Bethune-Cookman on Monday. The game, re-scheduled from a rain out earlier this season, is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. in Daytona Beach. The Hatters will then play at Miami on Wednesday before getting back into conference action at USC Upstate next weekend.
“We’re still not taking giant steps, we’re taking baby steps, but this was a big step for us right here,” Dunn concluded. “We really felt that we needed to get two out of three up here. Hopefully these last two games get us going.”