The Stetson baseball team allowed four runs in the ninth inning, as Mercer (18-6, 3-1) defeated the Hatters (10-12, 0-1) by a score of 7-4 in game one of a three-game Atlantic Sun Conference series at Melching Field on Friday night.
“We had a well played game, and [Stetson starting pitcher] Josh Powers once again goes out there and pitches a good game, but that’s the difference in those two teams tonight,” Stetson head coach Pete Dunn said. “[It was] a veteran team over there that seems to know how to win. We shut them out for five innings, and in the last four innings they score seven runs.”
After Stetson’s Powers and Mercer’s starter Brandon Barker cruised through the first three innings quickly, the Hatters got to Barker in the bottom of the fourth. Stetson used a two-out rally to score a pair of runs and take a 2-0 lead over the Bears.
Freshman Carlos Garmendia singled through the right side to start things off, before senior Mitchel Brennan worked a walk to put two runners on. Freshman Konner Lutz then doubled to right center field, his second extra base hit of the season, driving in both runners to give Stetson the first lead of the game.
Mercer was able to put one run across in the sixth on a trio of singles, but the top of the seventh was when the Bears took their first lead, and ultimately forced Powers out of the contest. A pair of singles and a hit by pitch tied the game at 2-2, and eventually, a single by Mercer’s Chesny Young gave the Bears the lead and forced Stetson to relieve Powers.
The sophomore right-hander allowed three runs on nine hits in his sixth start of the season. Powers struck out two batters while walking none in six and two thirds innings.
Stetson fired right back in the bottom half of the seventh, scoring two runs to regain the lead at 4-3. Junior Robert Bruce led off the frame with a single through the infield, before freshman Kevin Fagan executed a bunt single to put two runners on.
A sacrifice bunt by sophomore Tyler Bocock advanced the runners to second and third, and both came home to score when freshman Patrick Mazeika hit his fifth double of the season, a two RBI shot to left center.
A scoreless eighth gave way to a four-run top of the ninth for Mercer that put the Bears in the lead once again, and handed Stetson a loss in its first A-Sun game of the season. Scoring off of three different Hatter relievers, Mercer used four hits, two walks, and a balk to take the late 7-4 advantage.
“They got into our bullpen, and they did a good job against them,” Dunn said. “They had some great at bats, but we’re still finding ways to make it hard on ourselves. We just couldn’t put it all together. It didn’t help that both [Kevin] Fagan and [freshman Tyler] Warmoth were out tonight because of the Florida State series. We just didn’t feel good about trying to use them tonight. I certainly would have loved to have had one or both of those guys available."
Bocock and Lutz each recorded two hits in the contest, while Lutz and Mazeika each drove in a pair in the loss. Young led the Bears with three hits in the win. Mercer’s Ben Lumsden earned the win after pitching two shutout innings in relief. Freshman Brandon Diaz picked up the loss after allowing one run on one walk.
Stetson and Mercer will square off again in game two of the weekend series, beginning Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at Melching Field. Saturday’s game was scheduled for 6:30 p.m., but has been officially moved to 1:00 p.m.