After waiting around for more than three hours on Sunday due to rain and lightning, the Stetson Hatters got jumped early by visiting Mercer, who went on to take a series deciding 9-1 victory at Melching Field.
The Bears (19-7, 4-2 A-Sun) banged out six hits off Stetson starting pitcher Adam Schaly (0-1) in the opening frame before many of the fans who stuck around were able to get to their seats. The result was a five-run inning which the Hatters (11-13, 1-2) never recovered from.
“I think it was a combination of things,” Hatters coach Pete Dunn said. “First of all, Mercer is a really good hitting team. If you don’t locate your pitches, and Schaly is not going to overpower anyone with velocity, then you have to pitch to location. His location was just not good at all today.”
The big blows in that opening frame for Mercer included an RBI single by Chesny Young, a run-scoring double by Austin Barrett and a two-run double by Logan Gaines.
That was more than enough for the Bears’ starting pitcher, D.J. Johnson (5-0). The former infielder turned in another strong performance as a full-time pitcher, allowing just one run while scattering nine hits over seven innings of work. He did not walk anyone and struck out seven.
“When you look at the scoreboard, we had as many hits as they did, but they had nine runs and we had one,” Dunn said. “The defining moment was in the bottom of the first when we came out with three straight hits, but only managed to score one run. They came off the field higher than a kite because they dodged the bullet that we didn’t.”
After consecutive singles by Kevin Fagan and Tyler Bocock opened the first for the Hatters, Patrick Mazeika followed with a bloop hit down the left-field line. Fagan would have scored on the play, but was prevented from doing so when he was knocked down in the base-line by Johnson, who was backing up third on the play.
“That was text-book obstruction and was a big play in the game,” Dunn said. “If we get that call, then all the runners advance, then we score a second run on the sacrifice fly and who knows what happens from there.”
But, no obstruction was called and the only run the Hatters scored in the inning, and in the game, came on a sacrifice fly by James Rasmussen.
“That was certainly a factor in the game because they did not have anyone covering the plate, and the umpire saw that,” Dunn said. “Fagan saw that the plate was uncovered and took off, but ran into the pitcher, who was not even in the play.
“That, in and of itself, did not lose the game. You can’t go out there against a good team like Mercer and give up five runs in the first inning and expect to win. We are not a team that is going to go up there and mash at the plate.”
Mercer added to its lead in the game with a single run in the third inning off freshman reliever Josh Thorne, and then got two more off Thorne in the fourth inning. The final Mercer run came in the sixth when Derrick Workman hit a solo home run to right center off Chad Rood.
Fagan and Bocock had two hits each to lead the Hatters. Workman led the Bears’ 12-hit attack with three hits while Young and Gaines had two each, as did Micheal Massi.
The Hatters will try to bounce back on Tuesday night when they host Florida A&M at 6:30 p.m. Stetson will close out a seven-game home stand next weekend, starting on Thursday, with a three-game Atlantic Sun series against Kennesaw State.