FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Stetson baseball team was defeated by Florida Gulf Coast by a score of 9-6 on Friday night at Swanson Stadium. The two losses to start this weekend’s series marked the first time the Hatters (26-28, 15-11) have dropped an Atlantic Sun Conference series since March.
The Eagles (36-18, 18-8), meanwhile, earned their 14th win in 16 games thanks to a trio of three-run innings. FGCU is tied with North Florida for second place in the A-Sun standings, just one game back of Mercer with one contest remaining. Stetson, however, falls to 15-11 in the league, remaining in fifth place.
“The most disappointing thing was that we didn’t put the ball in play with runners in scoring position,” Stetson head coach Pete Dunn said after the game. “We had every opportunity to win this ball game tonight. The difference was that when they had two outs and men in scoring position they made quality contact, and we just didn’t put the ball in play.”
Stetson left 11 men on base, while FGCU only stranded six. There were two innings in which the Hatters put one run across, but had the opportunity to plate more.
In the fourth, with the score tied 3-3, senior Mitchel Brennan doubled, junior Robert Bruce singled, and sophomore Tyler Bocock walked, giving the Hatters a prime opportunity to do damage to the Eagles. A balk score Brennan, but two straight ground outs ended the Stetson charge.
The Hatters led off the top of the sixth with three straight walks, and were primed to punish FGCU pitching trailing just 6-4 at the time. A sacrifice fly by freshman Patrick Mazeika that drove in junior K’shawn Smith and another walk were sandwiched between a strikeout and a pop up to the second baseman.
“Obviously we had opportunities,” Dunn continued. “Their pitchers didn’t throw strikes. We had base runners, but when it came down to needing quality contact, we just didn’t get it. We struck out eight times tonight, and I guarantee you many of those were with men in scoring position.”
Three runs in the seventh on a couple of hit batsmen, a walk, and a three-run double off the wall in left put FGCU up 9-5, which was enough for the Eagles to hold onto the win, and take the series from the Hatters.
After the Eagles got on top of junior starting pitcher Austin Perez (7-2) early, plating three runs on five hits in the first inning, Stetson tied things up with a trio of runs of their own in the second.
Senior James Rasmussen led off with one of 11 walks by the FGCU pitching staff, freshman Konner Lutz followed with a single through the infield, and Brennan drove in the first Hatter run on a double to right center. A sac fly by Bocock, and a double to right by freshman Kevin Fagan tied the game at 3-3 early on.
Stetson attempted to rally late as well, scoring one in the top of the ninth to bring the final score to 9-6. Sophomore Garrett Russini walked, and then came around to score on a double to center by Rasmussen. It wasn’t enough though, because after yet another walk, a strikeout and a foul out to the catcher ended the game.
Perez picked up just his second loss of the season after allowing six runs, five of which were earned, on nine hits. FGCU’s RJ Brown (3-2) picked up the win despite giving up one run on two walks in just 1.2 innings of relief.
“We didn’t lose the World Series, and we didn’t knock ourselves out of the tournament,” Dunn concluded. “We just have to try to get back up on the horse tomorrow, and try to get out of here with a win in this last game. We have to take some momentum into the tournament.”
The Hatters and the Eagles will play the series finale on Saturday at Swanson Stadium. The final game of the regular season is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. with freshman Adam Schaly projected to take on junior Harrison Cooney.