After playing their first two Atlantic Sun Conference series this year at home, the Stetson Hatters will venture onto the road this weekend for a three-game series at Jacksonville.
The Hatters will be looking to avoid dropping their third consecutive A-Sun series to start the year, something Stetson has not done since 2006. The series will open at Sessions Stadium on Friday night at 7 p.m. Play will continue with a 2 p.m. game on Saturday and will conclude with the series finale on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Video for the games will not be available this weekend, but live audio from all three games will be available online through HatterVision, with Ryan Rouse calling all the action.
The weekend set continues a busy two week road stretch for Stetson (13-16). The Hatters will play a makeup game in Daytona against Bethune-Cookman on Monday night before heading south for a game against the Miami Hurricanes on Wednesday.
Stetson’s road trip will conclude next weekend with a three-game A-Sun series at USC Upstate.
This weekend’s series will mark the end of a long regular-season rivalry between the two senior head coaches in the Atlantic Sun Conference. While Stetson coach Pete Dunn is the dean of A-Sun coaches in his 34th season, Jacksonville coach Terry Alexander is in his 24th, and final season leading the Dolphins program.
Dunn and Alexander have squared off 67 times in the careers and have played to a near draw. Dunn has 34 wins, Alexander has 32 wins and there was one tie. Both teams have struggled this year. The Dolphins come in having lost five of their last six games while the Hatters have just three wins in their last 12 games.
For the Hatters to keep that slim edge this weekend, their will have to find a way to score more runs. In two A-Sun series so far, the Hatters have hit just .250 and have scored just 16 runs in six games, resulting in a 2-4 league record. By comparison, JU has scored 27 runs in its first two league series in posting a 3-3 record.
In an effort to find the right offensive combination, the Hatters have used 21 different batting orders through 29 games. The only consistent names in the order for Stetson this year have been a pair of freshmen, Kevin Fagan in the leadoff spot and Patrick Mazeika hitting third.
The fourth and fifth spots in the order have been fairly consistent as well, with senior James Rasmussen hitting fourth and sophomore catcher Garrett Russini batting fifth, but those two switched spots at USF on Tuesday and Russini responded with two hits, including a homer, and three RBI.
For the Hatters to have success offensively, Fagan, who is hitting just .235 on the year but also has 18 walks, needs to get on base in front of Mazeika, who is riding a 13-game hit streak and is hitting .368 on the year. He has reached base safely, via hit or walk, in 20 consecutive games.
Stetson’s leading hitter this season, junior outfielder Robert Bruce, has been out of the lineup for the last five games while nursing an injury. Getting him back will give a boost to the bottom of the Hatters’ lineup if he continues to hit at the .370 clip he has so far.
While scoring runs has been a problem at times, the Hatters have gotten fairly consistent production from the pitching staff in weekend games, even though senior standout Kurt Schluter has not pitched in more than a month. The duo of sophomore right-hander Josh Powers (1-3, 2.47) and junior left-hander Austin Perez (3-1, 3.31) have been solid for Stetson.
That duo will be joined again this week by Fagan (2-1, 1.48, two saves), who will be making just his third start of the year on Friday to open the series for Stetson. The move of Fagan to the Friday night spot pushes Powers back to Saturday and Perez to Sunday.
Jacksonville will counter on Friday night when junior right-hander Chris Anderson (4-2, 2.21), who has been named the A-Sun Pitcher of the Week three times already this year, but is coming off a loss last week at Mercer in a game in which he surrendered eight earned runs on 11 hits over six innings in a 13-5 loss to the Bears.
That loss snapped a four-game win streak for Anderson that included victories over TCU (5-3), UCF (4-0), East Carolina (3-2) and USC Upstate (3-0).
On Saturday the Dolphins will send junior right-hander Zach Gordon (2-5, 6.68) to the mound to face Powers and sophomore right-hander Alex McRae (2-2, 3.50) will make the start against Perez on Sunday.
Offensively, the Dolphins are hitting .255 as a team (Stetson is hitting .252) but have 64 extra-base hits on the year, including 16 home runs. By comparison, Stetson has 43 extra-base hits with just three homers.
Senior Jake Huxtable leads JU with a .366 average. The leading run producer for the Dolphins is junior college transfer Brady North, who has four home runs and 18 RBI despite hitting just .242 on the year.