DeLAND—Michael Murray tossed a complete game and the top three batters in Florida Gulf Coast’s order combined to drive in all eight runs as the Eagles handed Stetson an 8-2 loss in the opening game of an Atlantic Sun Conference series, Saturday at Melching Field.
The A-Sun leader in earned run average entering the game (0.20), Murray (6-0) scattered seven hits and walked just one batter while striking out four for the conference-leading Eagles (17-9, 4-0).
Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Stetson scored twice to get within 3-2. But the game turned back in the Eagles’ favor when the Hatters surrendered five runs in the top of the seventh.
“When it got to be 3-2 we felt like we had a chance to win,” said Stetson head coach Pete Dunn. “The thing that was most disappointing was that we battled back from a 3-0 deficit, and we needed a pitcher to go out and give us a stop and get us back in the dugout, and instead of a stop FGCU put up a five spot. After that inning they got real comfortable, especially with a guy like Murray on the mound.”
Murray and Stetson (9-17, 1-3) emergency starter Adam Schaly engaged in a pitcher’s duel over the first five innings.
Stetson missed an opportunity to take an early lead in the second when freshman left fielder Jordan Schulz tripled off the wall in center field with one out. But a pair of pop ups left him stranded.
Schaly, who was forced into action when scheduled starter Josh Powers tweaked his back during pregame warm ups, limited FGCU to just one run over the first four innings. The lone run came when three-hole batter Michael Suchy hit a two-out solo home run for a 1-0 lead.
Making his first start of the season, Schaly kept FGCU from adding to its lead until the sixth. With one out and one on, FGCU’s number two hitter Colton Bottomley blasted a two-run home run to left field for a 3-0 lead.
Stetson cut into the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Center fielder Kevin Fagan led off with a double, and later scored when the right fielder misplayed a single by first baseman Patrick Mazeika. Catcher Garrett Russini followed with a double into the right-center field gap to score Mazeika and get Stetson within 3-2.
But FGCU regained control of the game in the seventh, scoring five runs against three Stetson pitchers. FGCU lead-off batter Jake Noll drove in two runs with a single and Bottomley knocked in two more with a double. Suchy plated the inning’s final run with a triple to make it 8-2.
Murray took over down the stretch, limiting Stetson to one hit in the final three innings.
Schaly (0-1) suffered the loss but, under the circumstances, turned in a solid performance. He allowed three runs (all earned) on four hits in 5.1 innings. The sophomore lefty struck out two and walked one.
“I thought Schaly went out there and gave us a pretty good performance,” said Dunn. “Especially considering that 10 minutes before the game he didn’t even know he was going to start.”
Mazeika led Stetson with three. Fagan, Russini, Schulz and Robert Bruce had the other hits.
Noll, Bottomley and Suchy combined to go 7-for-14 with eight RBI and five runs scored.
The Hatters and Eagles conclude their series with a doubleheader, noon, Sunday, at Melching Field.