The Stetson Hatters finally got the marquee victory they have been searching for all season, but taking a 6-5 victory over No. 1 Florida State on Wednesday afternoon at Melching Field was in doubt until the very last pitch.
That last pitch was a running fastball from Stetson closer Robbie Powell that caught FSU cleanup hitter Jayce Boyd looking with the potential tying run on base. The save was Powell’s 15th of the season, tying the school mark originally set by Mike Lyons in 1996.
That last pitch also exercised the demons from Tuesday night’s game against FSU when Stetson went to the ninth inning down just 2-1 only to see the Seminoles score seven runs in the final inning.
“When we got to the ninth, a lot of teams would have said ‘here we go again’ thinking about last night,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. “Our guys really gutted up.”
The Hatters (31-18) also benefitted from one of the oddest defensive plays of the season in the eighth inning. FSU (40-9) was charged with four errors in that one inning, including three on one play. That play resulted in Mark Jones scoring all the way from first base on a ball that Mitchel Brennan hit back to the pitcher. Jones’ run turned out to be the game winner.
“I was trying to do a little more than that, but I got out in front of a changeup and they made a bad play,” Brennan said. “Mark hustled around the bases and got us the run that ended up winning it.”
Jones said the whole play revolved around a call at second that many times would go the other way.
“The ball was hit back to the pitcher and his throw led them up the line a little,” Jones said. “Usually, the umpire will give them that call at second base, but when I slid in I knew he was off the bag and he made the correct call.
“I went on to third and Coach (Mark) Leavitt said that no one was covering the plate, so I just had to win a foot race with (FSU third baseman) Sherman (Johnson). He is a good friend and a good guy. I was able to beat him to get the run and it ended up being the winning run.”
Dunn said the six errors committed by the Seminoles in the game might give people a false idea about how the game was played.
“I know that people are going to look at the six errors and think they gave that game to us, but we forced them into some mistakes and then we took advantage of some vacant bases,” Dunn said. “We really ran well today and reacted well on the bases.”
The Hatters had to play the game without two player who would have normally been in the lineup. Both freshman Tanner Blackman (who had four hits on Tuesday) and junior Kurt Schluter were out of the starting lineup because of foot injuries suffered on Tuesday. The injury to Schluter played a big role in Stetson’s game plan because, with him out of action for this weekend’s series at East Tennessee State, the plan for pitching had to change.
Freshman Josh Powers (3-1) expected to go as deep into the game as he could but with Schluter out for this weekend, he will be filling the void in the series against ETSU.
“When we got the news about Schluter, we knew we would have to have Josh this weekend,” Dunn said. “We were going to pull him after one inning, but he only had 15 pitches so we let him go one more. He would up with 29 pitches, which was basically a bull pen session for him.”
Powers was followed on the mound by Austin Perez, Jake Boyd, Cameron Griffin, Joe Dye, Tucker Donahue and Powell as the Hatters pieced together the outing. FSU matches the Hatters change-for-change, also using seven pitchers in what was the fifth game in five days for the Seminoles.
“Before the game coach told me that I was going to go for as long as my pitch count was good,” Powers said. “I was thinking that I would stay out there for as long as I was throwing good. After the second inning he told me that was all for me. The guys did a great job out of the pen.”
FSU starter Peter Miller (5-2) took the loss after surrendering a pair of runs in the second inning. After a Robert Bruce single plated Spencer Theisen with the second run of the inning, the Hatters missed out on a bigger number by leaving the bases loaded.
Stetson added a run in the third when Brennan led off the inning with a double and scored on a two-out single by Garrett Russini against FSU reliever Brian Busch.
“We had some guys in there who have not had a lot of playing time lately,” Dunn said. “Bruce was one that had a couple of hits, Russini had a big RBI hit and then we had Brennan at first, where he hasn’t played all year. I would not have thought, at the beginning of the year, that we would have that lineup out there, but we preach all the time that when guys get their chances they have to be ready.”
FSU cut the Stetson lead to 3-2 in the sixth inning thanks in large part to a pair of wild pitches. One of those, by Perez, allowed Johnson to score and, after a collision at the plate, forced Perez to leave the game.
Stetson got those runs back in the seventh inning. Brennan again led off with a double and, after James Rasmussen was hit by a pitch from Kyle Bird, both runners moved up on a balk. A shallow sacrifice fly to center was enough for Brennan to score and Rasmussen came in on an error.
The Seminoles answered with two runs in the eighth when Boyd singled home Devon Travis and James Ramsey came in on a sacrifice fly by Stephen McGee. Jose Brizuela led off the ninth with a double off Powell and scored on a Ramsey fly ball to deep center before Boyd struck out to end the game.
After the victory, the Hatters were quick to point out that beating Florida State on a Wednesday in early May is not going to get them where they want to go in late May.
“We have seven games left this year, we have to take this win and build on it to go into these games at East Tennessee State, starting on Friday,” Jones said. “If we can build on this win, I think we can get something going. Once this team gets on a roll, we can play some good baseball. This is one win, and it is one that we needed. We are going to focus on going up there on Friday and hopefully get another one.”
Brennan and Bruce had two hits each to lead Stetson on Wednesday while Travis, Boyd and Brizuela had two hits apiece for the Seminoles.
The Hatters will board a plane early on Thursday for the trip to Johnson City, Tenn., where they will face the Buccaneers in a three-game series starting on Friday. The games at ETSU will not be available on Hatter Vision because of construction at the stadium. The first pitch on Friday is set for 7 p.m.