DeLAND—Stetson connected for a season-high 18 hits in the opener en route to an 18-9 victory, but Florida Gulf Coast rallied for a 4-3, extra inning win in the nightcap, as the Hatters and Eagles split their Atlantic Sun Conference doubleheader, Sunday at Melching Field.
FGCU’s win in game two gave the league-leading Eagles (18-10 overall, 5-1 A-Sun) the series win.
Despite the heartbreaking loss in game two, Stetson head coach Pete Dunn was pleased with his team’s efforts in rallying twice.
“We came back twice in two games and we haven’t shown a propensity to do that this year,” said Dunn. “We gave up the lead after having a big lead in the first game, and came back to tie and had a chance to win it twice in the second game. That’s a giant step from where we were.”
Stetson pounded FGCU’s vaunted pitching staff in the opener, scoring its most runs in over two years. Patrick Mazeika led the charge with a 4-for-4 effort, while Garrett Russini, Kyle Zech and Kyle Pitts each had three hits. Russini and Pitts each knocked in four runs.
The Hatters jumped all over FGCU starter Nick Deckert in the first inning, scoring six runs, their highest-scoring inning of the year. Leading 1-0, Russini hit a three-run home run, and Mike Fernland later added a two-run double.
FGCU responded by scoring eight runs over the next three innings, taking an 8-6 lead with four runs in the fourth. Stetson battled back with three runs in the bottom of the fifth as Pitts laced a bases-loaded double to score all three base runners.
With Stetson leading 9-8, FGCU’s Zack Tillery tied the game with a solo home run in the top of the sixth. But once again Stetson regrouped, scoring five runs in the bottom of the inning.
The Hatters added a single run in the seventh on a Mazeika double, and three more runs in the eighth, including another RBI single for Mazeika, to make it 18-9.
Mitchell Jordan (2-3) picked up the win in relief, allowing one run on three hits in 2.1 innings of relief. The Stetson bullpen combined to allow one run on six hits in 5.1 innings of work in the opener.
Reliever Sterling Koerner (2-1) took the loss for the Eagles.
In game two the Hatters fell behind early, and rallied late to send the game into extra innings. But FGCU had the final rally to get the win in what was scheduled as a seven-inning game.
Tillery put FGCU on top 1-0 with an RBI double in the first inning. The Eagles took a 3-0 lead in the third as Clayton Bottomley hit a solo home run, and Nick Rivera added an RBI single.
The game remained 3-0 until the Hatters broke through in the bottom of the sixth. McCormick’s one-out infield single scored Mazeika to make it 3-1, setting the stage for Stetson’s rally in the seventh.
Down 3-1 in the final frame, Mitch Piatnik got the rally started for Stetson with a one-out single. He moved to second on a single by Tyler Bocock, and later scored on a single by Zech to make it 3-2. Mazeika followed with a sharp single up the middle to score Bocock and tie the game at 3-3.
The Hatters had two chances to win the game in the seventh. But Russini grounded out with Zech at second, and pinch-hitter Tanner Blackman grounded out with Zech at third to end the inning.
Stetson had another chance to win in the eighth. Jordan Schulz led off with a single but was erased on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Pitts. Pitts eventually moved to second on a ground out by Fagan, but Piatnik struck out swinging to end the threat.
FGCU put two of the first three batters on in the top of the ninth and Bottomley knocked in the winning run with a single to right, his fifth hit of the game.
The Hatters went down in order in the bottom of the ninth.
Stetson had 11 hits in the nightcap, with Mazeika going 4-for-5. In the two games on Sunday, Mazeika was 8-for-9 with three RBI and four runs scored. He reached base in 10 of 11 plate appearances in the doubleheader.’
Bottomley was 5-for-5 in game two, with three doubles, a homer and two RBI.
Taylor Cockrell (2-3) was the hard-luck loser for Stetson. The freshman scattered 10 hits over 8.1 innings and allowed four runs. He struck out three and walked three.
Tiller (2-2) picked up the win for FGCU, tossing two shutout innings of relief.
The Hatters open a two-game series with South Florida, 6:30 p.m., Tuesday at Melching Field.