Stetson sophomore Austin Perez (1-4) had stifled the UCF offense since coming in to pitch for the Hatters with two outs in the 10th inning. But all it took was one mistake, on a 3-2 pitch to Knights leadoff hitter Ronnie Richardson, to turn a great outing into a disappointing loss.
Richardson pulled the offering from Perez down the left field line, and out of the park no more than 10 feet to the right of the fair pole.
Bryan Brown (2-0) put the Hatters down in order in the bottom of the inning, preventing the Hatters from staging a third dramatic comeback.
“It a really tough loss,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. “It was a very emotional, very tough loss. It was just one of those games, but our kids battled the whole time. It was a game we certainly would have liked to have come out on top in.”
Stetson (29-15) got off to a quick start in the game, scoring in the first inning on a Ben Carhart double against UCF starter Ray Hanson. But the Hatters were not able to add anything to the lead over the next five innings, leaving runners stranded in scoring position in the second, fourth and sixth innings.
While the Hatters worked to solve the UCF starter, Stetson freshman Josh Powers had another strong outing on the mound. The New Smyrna Beach native allowed just one earned run over six innings of work, holding the potent Knights offense to just five hits.
“It was another really good outing by Powers,” Dunn said. “He has really come into his own. Perez came in at the end and pitched really well. I know he is disappointed in giving up the home run, but he pitched well.”
UCF tied the game in the second inning, scoring a run thanks to a pair of Stetson errors. The game remained tied until the sixth when Darrell Sweeney reached on a on a double that Stetson rightfielder James Rasmussen was sure he caught on a diving effort.
After Sweeney stole third, D.J. Hicks drove him home with a single to right.
“There was only one person in the ball park that didn’t think he caught that ball,” Dunn said. “Unfortunately, he was the most important person on that play.”
UCF added an insurance run in the seventh inning when Ryan Breen drew a leadoff walk from Stetson reliever Cameron Griffin and then scored two batters later on a single by Travis Breen.
The Hatters answered in the bottom of the inning, finally solving Hanson and chasing him from the game. Trey Blackman drew a one-out walk and Spencer Theisen followed with a bloop single. Sam Kimmel was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two out for Robert Crews, who delivered a game-tying two-run single.
While Griffin blanked the Knights, Stetson had a chance to win the game in regulation when Blackman struck out to lead off the ninth inning, but reached on a wild pitch from UCF closer Joe Rogers. Pinch runner Kyle Zech stole second and advanced to third on a single by Sam Kimmel that was kept on the infield by Sweeney at short. Rogers was able to strikeout Crews to end the threat and force extra innings.
Controversy erupted again in the 10th inning after Shreve led off the frame with a double off Robbie Powell. A sacrifice bunt moved Shreve up to third base before Sweeney lifted a fly ball to medium right field. Rasmussen fired a strike toward Stetson catcher Sam Kimmel, who appeared to block Shreve off the plate, but the plate umpire called the UCF runner safe.
That brought Dunn from the Stetson dugout to argue the call and led to some harsh words between the opposing head coaches. After order was restored, the Hatters appealed at third that Shreve had left too early, but he was again called safe, bringing Dunn back out to argue. Plate umpire Randy Harvey apparently didn’t want to hear any more and ejected Dunn from the game.
“You can go back and point to a lot of things in this game, but we can’t dwell on it,” Dunn said. “We had opportunities to put some other runs on the board and didn’t capitalize. You could drive yourself crazy picking a game like that apart. All I can say is that it was a tough loss and a great effort. Both teams played hard.”
Down 4-3 going to the bottom of the 10th, Carhart led off with a single for the Hatters. After a sacrifice bunt moved him to second, Brian Eggleston came on to run. Kurt Schluter came to the plate for the Hatters with two out and worked his way to a full count from Rogers before delivering a game-tying single to left center.
That is where things stayed until the 13th.
Kimmel, Crews, Carhart, Jones and Schluter had two hits each in the game for Stetson while Sweeney, Shreve and James Vasquez had two apiece for UCF.
The Hatters will try to shake off the tough loss when they return to Melching Field Friday night to open a three-game weekend series against Atlantic Sun leading USC Upstate. The first pitch on Friday is slated for 6:30 p.m.
“We have a huge weekend coming up and we have to try to make sure the kids are ready to play,” Dunn said. “I think they will be. I know they will be disappointed tonight, and they should be. When you play that hard and fight back down to your last pitch, it is disappointing. We have to get back in the saddle and get back after it.”