MACON, Ga.—Stetson rallied for a pair of runs in the top of the ninth inning on its way to a 3-2 win over No. 24 Mercer, Saturday in Atlantic Sun Conference play at Claude Smith Field. The win, coupled with other results around the league, helped the Hatters clinch a spot in the A-Sun Tournament.
Stetson (21-31 overall, 10-13 A-Sun), which previously had been 0-29 when trailing after eight innings, tied the game on a sacrifice fly by starting pitcher Taylor Cockrell, and scored the winning run when Garrett Russini scored on a wild pitch during an at-bat by Jordan Schulz. Tyler Warmoth secured the win, setting down the Bears in order in the bottom of the ninth.
The late rally overshadowed a tremendous pitcher’s duel between Mercer’s Grant Papelian and Cockrell. The two combined to allow three runs and strikeout 14 batters, but neither factored in the final decision.
Mercer (36-12, 17-6) opened the scoring, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a run-scoring single by Nate Moorhouse.
Cockrell kept the Bears in check over the next four innings, facing just 12 batters between the third and sixth innings.
He struck out the first two batters of the seventh before plunking a hitter and surrendering a bloop single to left. With two out and two on, Moorhouse came through again for Mercer by lining a single to right, scoring Charlie Madden just ahead of Kevin Fagan’s throw to make it 2-0.
The Hatters finally got to Papelian in the eighth. Mike Fernland started the inning by just missing a solo home run to left. With one out, Kyle Zech followed with a double into the right field corner, and later scored on Kyle Pitts’ single up the middle as Stetson pulled to within 2-1.
Trailing by a run, Stetson’s offense was aggressive against Mercer closer Ben Lumsden in the ninth. Tyler Bocock opened the inning with a double to the left-center field gap and Patrick Mazeika followed with a hard single through the left side, moving Bocock to third.
With runners on the corners and none out, Cockrell’s sac fly to center knocked in Bocock with the tying run. Russini followed by lining a double into the right field corner, moving Mazeika to third, but Mazeika was gunned down at the plate for the second out when Fernland’s sharp grounder didn’t get through the drawn-in infield.
Cockrell pitched one batter into the eighth inning, allowing two runs on five hits while striking nine without a walk. The nine strikeouts were one shy of a season-high. Warmoth (4-3) earned the win with two shutout innings of relief, striking out a pair.
Papelian allowed one run on six hits in eight innings for the Bears. Reliever Austin Lord (2-1) suffered the loss.
Stetson smacked nine hits, including four doubles. Russini had a pair of hits – both doubles – to lead the charge.
Stetson and Mercer conclude their series, Sunday at 1 p.m.