Fort Myers, Fla. - For the second consecutive game Stetson (36-10, 19-4 A-Sun) rallied in the final inning to defeat Florida Gulf Coast (22-25, 11-12 A-Sun). The No. 14 ranked Hatters came back from a 5-2 deficit with six runs in the 9th to win the game 8-5 and secure its eighth conference series in eight tries this season.
Nick Rickles (Loxahatchee, Fla.) led the Hatter offense going 3-for-5 with two doubles, one home run (8th), two RBI and two runs scored. Ben Carhart (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.), last year's Florida Junior College Player of the Year came through with a pair of hits including a game-winning two-RBI double in the 9th inning.
After striking out two and holding the Eagles hitless and scoreless over the final 1.1 innings, Stetson closer Robbie Powell (Punta Gorda, Fla.) earned the victory and is now 5-1 on the season. FGCU's Austin Gaines (Dunedin, Fla.) fell to 3-3 after suffering the loss for the second night in a row.
The first place (Atlantic Sun Conference) Hatters collected six runs on four hits in the decisive 9th inning.
It took eight innings and 135 pitches until Stetson was able to get FGCU starter Richard Knapp (Port Charlotte, Fla.) out of the game, yet when it did the rally began. Reliever Jack Wagoner (Berlin, Conn.) walked Ryan Lashley (Lake Worth, Fla.) and then gave up a single to Sean Emory (Miami, Fla.) and hit Trey Blackman (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) with a 3-2 pitch to load the bases with no outs. Gaines then entered for the Eagles to try and quell the momentum.
"Knapp did a great job for them. Sometimes you just have to keep working and get that starter out of there. If you haven't done anything with the starter you have to try and get to the bullpen and that's what we did today", said Stetson head coach Pete Dunn. "We created some scoring opportunities in the 9th by putting the bat on our shoulders and letting them walk a couple and then we came through a swung the bats when we needed it. It's a big win for us."
After an RBI ground out by Jeff Simpson (Valrico, Fla.) leaving runners on second and third, Stetson was set up for the pivotal play that followed. Robert Crews (Port Charlotte, Fla.) hit a ground ball and Emory was forced into a rundown between third base and home plate. After remaining alive long enough for the trailing runner to reach third, Emory turned to evade and ran into an Eagle defender. Interference was called taking away a sure out and allowing Emory to touch home and make the score 5-4.
Carhart stepped into the box and smashed a double to right center that scored two runs and gave Stetson its first lead of the game. Rickles followed with a crushing blow that cleared the fence in left by a wide margin and the comeback was complete.
"A huge win, huge win! We got down early and then the bullpen came in and did a great job holding them down. We felt like we were still in it even when we were down by five", said Dunn.
The Hatters and Eagles will return to Swanson Stadium Sunday at 1:00 p.m. for the series finale. Stetson fans can hear the game on Hatter Vision at GoHatters.com with Bill Topping calling the action. Tickets for home games are available at the gate or can be purchased online at GoHatters.com or by calling 738-HATS.