Stetson baseball fans will get a chance to take an early look at the 2013 Hatters on Saturday afternoon when Stetson hosts the Canadian Junior National Team at Melching Field.
The first pitch between the Hatters and Canadians is scheduled for 1 p.m. Admission to the game is just $5 and all seats will be general admission.
The game closes a 10-day stay in Florida for the Canadians, who have been playing against Major League Instructional League teams in and around Orlando since arriving in the state on Oct. 11. Going into Thursday’s game against the Detroit Tigers’ IL team, Team Canada had a 1-3 record.
They will face the Atlanta Braves’ IL team on Friday at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex before facing the Hatters on Saturday.
For the Hatters, the game will give the coaching staff an opportunity to see a lot of the new players on the squad face live competition for the first time since they arrived on campus.
“Our big push is to see a lot of these new guys play,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. “We have some junior college kids who have some experience with Mike Fernland, Tyler Bocock and K’shawn Smith, and we have a feel for how they are going to fit in. But, we also have so many young puppies that we have to get out there.”
Stetson will be looking to field an entirely new infield this spring in what will be Coach Dunn’s 34th season as head coach. In addition, two of the three spots in the weekend pitching rotation are up for grabs, as are virtually all of the jobs out of the bullpen.
With just one opportunity to see the Hatters face live competition in the fall, the plan is for seven different pitchers to get an inning on the mound. Pitchers for the last two innings will be determined by the score and the game situation.
One thing for certain is that several of the newest members of the Stetson pitching staff will get some work in against the Canadians.
“I think we are going to run at least three or four out on the mound, so we will see some young arms there,” Dunn said. “Adam Schaly and Garrison Banas will definitely work an inning and Josh Thorne will be available as needed.”
The Hatters will open the game with four returning pitchers each working an inning. Senior right-hander Kurt Schluter will start and will be followed by junior left-hander Cameron Griffin, sophomore right-hander Josh Powers and junior left-hander Austin Perez.
After that quartet, expect to see redshirt freshman right-hander Tyler Warmoth work an inning before the lefties Schaly and Banas take the mound.
“It is important for us to see some of these young guys that we project are going to have to help us in the spring,” Dunn said.
The Canadian team is expected to use four pitchers against the Hatters. RHP Cal Quantrill is expected to start and work three innings before giving way to a pair of lefties, Kurtis Horne and Brodie Harkness, for two innings each. Right-hander Nathan Borges is expected to work the final two innings.
Quantrill struck out two in three innings while allowing three hits and two walks against the Braves in an 8-0 loss on Monday. Horne, Harkness and Borges allowed one run each in the Canadians’ 13-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.
While pitching will be one area of focus, the Hatters must also replace their entire infield, including catcher. Four of those five jobs could go to first-year players for Stetson, with only sophomore catcher Garrett Russini returning from last year.
“Garrett Russini, as hard as it is to believe, is a sophomore and is a veteran for us behind the plate,” Dunn said.
The two junior college transfers, Smith and Bocock, will likely start up the middle on Saturday with freshmen Carlos Garmendia at third base and Patrick Mazeika at first.
Fernland, another JUCO transfer, could see some time at first base as well, but has been slowed this fall by an injury. If he doesn’t see time in the field, he’ll potentially serve as the designated hitter.
The outfield situation has more of a veteran flavor for the Hatters with seniors Mitchel Brennan and James Rasmussen being joined by junior Robert Bruce and sophomore Tanner Blackman. Junior Kyle Zech has not yet begun baseball activities after off-season surgery and will not play.
Some of the other youngsters on the team – freshman catcher Buck McCarthy, freshman Kevin Fagan and sophomore Darby McCormick – are among the players the Stetson coaches are hoping to get into some action, but with just the one game, getting everyone in will be impossible.
“I can’t promise that we will be able to get everyone in this week,” Dunn said. “For us to get a chance to see some of these young kids will be interesting to see. Besides that, the first thing that I want to do is win the game. I am too competitive to say that winning and losing doesn’t matter. But, more than anything, I want to see these young players go up against some awfully good young players – the best players in Canada – and see how they stack up.”
While an exhibition game of this nature in the fall provides a glimpse at what the Stetson team will be like in the spring, it also gives the Hatters a chance to see some talented potential recruits up close. Many of the players on the Canadian team played in the IBAF 18U World Championship in Seoul, Korea, and brought home a silver medal.
“We have had guys in the past who came to Stetson after playing on these national teams,” Dunn said. “Kevin Nicholson is the big name we had who ended up being a first round draft pick. We have had three or four Canadian kinds in here who have played on one or more of these national teams.
“This is not a bunch of young slouches on this team. They are pretty good and they swing it pretty well.”
Stetson’s fall camp, which started on October 2, will continue through November 10, with the annual Hatter Series slated for Nov. 8-10. The team has scrimmages scheduled for Oct. 25, 26 and 27 and again on Nov. 2. All practices are open to the public. Practice times are at 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 4 p.m. on Wednesday and 10 a.m. on Saturday.