Stetson senior Will Dorsey has been a clutch performer in big games for the Hatters all season, but he out did himself on Thursday morning in an Atlantic Sun Conference elimination game against USC Upstate.
Dorsey needed just 99 pitches to turn in a complete-game two-hit shutout of the Spartans to help the Hatters stay alive in the tournament with a 1-0 victory. His performance on the mound came less than 12 hours after the Hatters lost a heart-breaking 4-3 decision to Belmont in the opening round in a game that took 15 innings to decide.
Hatters coach Pete Dunn said it was the exactly the kind of performance they were looking for, and the kind that Dorsey had delivered all year.
“During the year, in conference series, we’d have our backs to the wall and he would go out there on Sunday and pitch well for us,” Dunn said. “He has come up big for us all year, but I don’t know that there has been a bigger one than this one here. If he doesn’t come through in this one today, then we would have had a long time to think about it.”
Dorsey said he felt the sense of urgency, especially after the Stetson pitching staff was extended for six extra innings of work on Wednesday.
“I have never felt that I had to carry the team, but I did feel like they were counting on me for a strong performance,” Dorsey said. “This was a tournament game, and an elimination game. After the arms we ran through in the 15 inning game last night, it was good to give those guys a rest. There was a lot of urgency, especially in any tournament setting. I knew that this could be my last.”
After surrendering a single to the Spartans’ leadoff hitter in the first inning, Dorsey retired 22 straight Upstate hitters before Tyler Cook broke the string with a one-out single in the eighth inning. That hit was immediately followed by a double play to preserve the Stetson lead.
Dorsey went back to the mound for the ninth inning and, after getting the first two Spartans, he hit Stampler with a 3-2 pitch, giving the Spartans life with A-Sun Player of the Year Gaither Bumgardner coming to the plate.
Normally, the Hatters would have turned to closer Robbie Powell in that situation, but the senior worked six innings in Wednesday’s game and was not available.
“Obviously, we didn’t have Powell,” Dunn said. “If we had him, he would have been out there in the ninth inning. Not having him, Dorsey’s pitch count was still respectable and he was still throwing the ball well.
“I didn’t want to over manage and bring a guy in who is not used to closing. If we had not gotten Bumgardner there, we would have gone to (Austin) Perez to face the left-hander, but Ben (Carhart) made the great play to win the game.”
Bumgardner hit the ball between short and third and Carhart was able to snag it on his knees and throw in time to first for the final out of the game.
The shutout was the first for Dorsey in 60 career starts. It was his second complete game, and first since April 12, 2011 in a 9-1 victory over South Florida. Dorsey did not walk anyone, struck out two and faced just two batters over the minimum.
“The thing with baseball, all the way up to the big league level, is if you have a guy out there who can throw his off-speed pitches for strikes and get his breaking ball over, he can win,” Dunn said. “That shows that you don’t have to have great velocity to be a quality pitcher. He is certainly a quality Division I pitcher.”
Dorsey (8-5) said he never really thought about how many hitters he had retired in a row, and no one in the dugout treated him any differently than any other game.
“Building up through the game, I felt stronger and stronger,” Dorsey said. “I guess they did stay away from me a little in the dugout, but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I was just taking it one inning at a time and not trying to think too far down the line. I was only worried about getting three outs and getting back into the dugout.”
The performance by Dorsey overshadowed a strong performance on the mound by USC Upstate’s Scott DeCecco (5-3). The left-hander allowed just the one run on six hits, working into the ninth inning. He walked one and struck out five before giving way to closer Chad Sobotka to get the final two outs.
Those last outs did not come without controversy. Carhart led off the ninth with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice by Mark Jones. Sobotka came in to face Kurt Schluter, who put down a squeeze bunt to try to push across an insurance run. Sobotka fielded the bunt and got the ball to catcher Dillon Way as Carhart slid in.
“I thought he was safe,” Dunn said of the play. “I thought he got under the tag. The ball was bunted a little hard, but we tell our kids to not try to be too fine with the squeeze and not worry about angle, just deaden the ball a little. It came off the bat pretty hot and Sobotka was able to get it in there. I still thought he was under the tag.”
The only run of the game crossed the plate in the second inning. Schluter led off with a single, moved up on a sacrifice and a wild pitch and then scored on a Trey Blackman ground out to second. The Hatters had other scoring chances in the game – in the first, fourth and ninth innings – but was never able to deliver.
“Fortunately, Dorsey had things in the ninth inning, with the help of the big play from Carhart, so it didn’t matter,” Dunn said. “He has been our big go-to guy all year. We felt like he was the guy we wanted out there today. Now (Lindsey) Caughel will have a chance tomorrow.”
The Hatters know they will play on Friday at 3 p.m., they just won’t know who they will play until after the last two games on Thursday.
Dunn said it doesn’t matter who the Hatters play, it just matters that they continue to play hard.
“There is no tomorrow (if we don’t win),” Dunn said. “To get this pick-me-up was big. It is not going to be easy for us to fight our way through, and it usually doesn’t happen, but we are on our home turf and we just have to keep working.”