The 19th-ranked Hatters scored four runs in the first inning and then cruised past the Quakers 14-1 in Penn’s season-opener. Stetson improved to 8-1 on the year while the Quakers fall to 0-1.
In the early game on Friday Southern Illinois got a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth from Wes Neece to defeat Georgia State 5-4.
The four early runs for the Hatters made for a relatively easy night on the mound for Stetson junior right-hander Kurt Schluter (2-0). In his third start of the year, Schluter held the Quakers to one run on six hits through 6.0 innings of work. He did not walk anyone and struck out three.
“It is nice to get some run support early,” Schluter said. “Last year I pitched in a few games when I had to pitch to the seventh in order to get a run or two. When they put a four spot up in the first, that takes the tension off and lets you relax.”
Still, Schluter had to put in a little extra effort on the mound. He unsuccessfully chased a foul pop off the bat of Penn’s Rick Brebner in the fourth inning into the Stetson dugout, where he was caught by Hatters teammates. Then, after giving up a one-out triple to Ryan Deitrich in the sixth, he blocked home plate after a wild pitch, and made the tag on a throw from Sam Kimmel to keep Deitrich from scoring.
“I was not going to let that earned run score on the wild pitch,” Schluter joked. “I was worried about my ERA, so I had to do anything I could to stop that run.”
Stetson coach Pete Dunn said he likes what he is seeing from Schluter, even if the junior is not all the way back to where he was last season.
“Schluter’s getting better,” Dunn said. “He still, in my opinion, has not come back (all the way) from missing the last six weeks (of last season), but the key thing is he’s healthy and he’s moving in the right direction.”
Offensively, the Hatters banged out 11 hits in the game and took advantage of nine Penn walks and three Quakers errors. Penn starter Vince Voiro (0-1) surrendered four runs in the first, but just one was earned. Trey Blackman had the key hit in the inning with a two-out, two-run double.
Voiro did not allow Stetson to score again over his 5.0 innings of work.
“We were told that he was drafted in the 40th round last year and we knew that he had a good slider,” senior Ben Carhart, who had three hits and scored three runs in the game, said. “We knew that he would throw it in the low 90s. We had a good approach early and he struggled a little, so that helped us out.”
It was after Voiro was lifted that the Hatters’ bats came back to life. Stetson scored seven times in the sixth inning against a trio of Penn pitchers, and then added three more runs in the seventh.
“I think we kind of lost our focus at the plate a little bit, but we finally did break it open,” Dunn said. “That’s what you have to do against a team like that. They’re just out of a gym. You just hope that they don’t keep running arms out there that stop you.”
In addition to Carhart, Mark Jones and Blackman had two hits each in the game for Stetson, and Blackman drove in three runs. Deitrich and James Mraz had two hits each to lead the Penn offense.
The Hatters will be back in action on Saturday night when they take on Southern Illinois (5-3) at 7 p.m. Penn will square off with Georgia State (5-5) in the 1 p.m. start.