The win, combined with a 10-5 loss by USC Upstate to Kennesaw State, moves Stetson (32-18, 13-9) within two games of first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference standings.
The solid pitching started with senior Lindsey Caughel (7-2) and ended with Robbie Powell, who recorded the final four outs for his school-record 16th save of the year. Cameron Griffin and Jake Boyd recorded a pair of outs each in between.
“We needed that,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. “We moved Lindsey up even though I was opposed to moving him and (Will) Dorsey up earlier when (Kurt) Schluter was hurt, but we didn’t have any choice tonight. Not only was it a well-pitched game, but it was a well-pitched game that was not in his normal slot.”
ETSU starter Jake Long (2-8) took the loss despite having a solid outing.
The timely hitting for Stetson started in the third inning with a two-out RBI single by Sam Kimmel and ended in the sixth when freshman Tanner Blackman delivered a two-out single to score Mitchel Brennan. The Hatters got two runs in that inning, with the first scoring when Mark Jones crossed the plate on a wild pitch.
“Tanner came up big,” Dunn said. “We gave him the hit on a 3-0 count. We have some guys on the bench who I have given the hit sign to with a 3-0 count and they will take one down the middle. You aren’t going to get a better pitch to hit than a 3-0 fastball down the middle. I gave him the hit and he did what he was supposed to do.”
The other run for the Hatters came on the first pitch of the fourth inning when Robert Crews blasted a home run to right. It was his third of the season.
Caughel worked into the seventh inning in his first Friday start of the season. He surrendered single runs in the first, third and seventh innings while allowing six hits and two walks. He struck out eight.
“It was not just him,” Dunn said. “Grif came in and did his thing and then Jake got two outs before giving up a double and we felt that we needed the breaking ball against all their right handers and went to Powell. Any time you give up three runs it is a well pitched game.”
Powell, as has been the case on a regular basis, had to deal with some adversity in the ninth to get his record save. He walked the leadoff hitter, pinch hitter Jordan Sanford, and then had to face the top of the ETSU batting order with the potential tying run on base.
After getting the next two outs, left-handed power-hitter Clinton Freeman, who already had a double in the game and leads the Buccaneers with a .368 average, came to the plate.
“We certainly couldn’t put him on because you never want to put the winning run on base in the ninth inning,” Dunn said. “We didn’t like the matchup, but we had to go with it. I don’t have much hair anyway, but I am going to end up pulling it all out because we have to lead the nation in allowing leadoff walks in the ninth inning.”
After getting ahead in the count, Powell got Freeman to fly out to deep center to end the game.
The Hatters had just eight hits in the game, three of which belonged to Theisen. Kerry Doane and Chris Riopedre had two hits each for the Bucs.
The Hatters and Bucs will meet again on Saturday at Thomas Stadium with the first pitch slated for 2 p.m.