The 2013 baseball season for the Stetson Hatters was all about giving a team loaded with first year players a chance to grow and mature.
That time comes to an end on Wednesday when the Hatters (26-29) open the 2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament against No. 4 seed East Tennessee State (32-22). The Hatters and Bucs will square off in the first game of the tournament on Wednesday at Melching Field, with the first pitch slated for 10 a.m.
The game will be broadcast locally on WSBB-AM 1230 and AM 1490 with Ryan Rouse calling the action. The game will also be web streamed for free through Asun.tv.
The Hatters closed the 2013 season the same way their closed the 2012 campaign, in a sweep against Florida Gulf Coast. Stetson managed just eight runs in the three games in Ft. Myers while the second seeded Eagles piled up 32 against the Hatters pitching staff.
None of that matters now. The only concern for the Hatters is winning and advancing. The A-Sun Tournament is expanded from six to eight teams this year, meaning it could take as many as six games for a team to win the tournament title, which includes an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament next week.
Stetson’s only chance to reach the Hatters’ 18th NCAA Regional under head coach Pete Dunn is to win their way in.
The Hatters will send second team All-A-Sun selection Austin Perez (7-2, 2.95) to the mound for the opening game where he will be opposed by the A-Sun Pitcher of the Year, ETSU senior Kerry Doane (12-1, 2.07).
Doane leads the nation with 11 complete games this year, including one in a 3-2 victory over the Hatters a month ago. For the Hatters to win, and snap a four-game losing streak in A-Sun Tournament openers, they’ll have to beat the best in the league.
The first time Doane faced the Hatters this year, he scattered eight hits, but the Hatters had plenty of chances to plate runs, leaving nine runners on base in the game.
Expect Stetson to load its batting order with left-handed hitters for the game. All eight Stetson hits the first time against Doane came from left-handed hitters, including two each from A-Sun All-Freshman team members Patrick Mazeika, Kevin Fagan and Konner Lutz.
Mazeika, who was named the league’s Freshman of the Year for 2013 in addition to earning first team All-Conference honors, will need to get hot again for the Hatters to have success. Even though he finished the regular season as the top hitter in the league, both overall and in league play, Mazeika is hitting just .286 (8-of-28) over the last 12 games.
The game between Stetson and ETSU will open a full day of action at Melching Field that will include games between top seeded Mercer (42-14) and No. 8 seed USC Upstate (26-28) in the second game, second seeded FGCU (37-18) against seventh seed Kennesaw State (26-28), and concluding with a showdown between third seeded North Florida (38-17) and sixth seeded Lipscomb (24-32) in the nightcap.
The A-Sun Tournament will include four more games on Thursday, with two games scheduled for Friday. Saturday’s schedule will depend upon results, but will include at least two games, and up to four. The A-Sun Championship will be decided at 1 p.m. on Sunday on ESPN3.