MACON, Ga.—Kevin Fagan tossed 5.2 shutout innings and Stetson withstood a late rally by No. 24 Mercer for a 4-3 win, Sunday at Claude Smith Field. The victory helped the Hatters win the Atlantic Sun Conference series over the Bears.
Mercer (36-13 overall, 17-7 A-Sun), who came into the weekend atop the A-Sun standings, mustered just six hits off Fagan (1-2), who just five weeks ago had yet to throw a pitch all season. The sophomore right-hander induced a pair of double plays and did not allow an extra-base hit.
The win capped an impressive weekend for the Hatters (22-31, 11-13) in what proved to be Stetson’s most impressive series win of the year. The Hatters out-hit the Bears, 33-21, while the pitching staff limited Mercer to a .231 average for the weekend. The defense made just two errors.
“It was important for our psyche to win two out of three this weekend because we’re going to have to beat teams liker Mercer if we are going to win the conference tournament in a few weeks,” said Stetson head coach Pete Dunn. “Fagan gave us a quality start today and the bullpen did a good job.”
On Sunday, Stetson broke open a scoreless game with two runs in the third. The Hatters loaded the bases with one out after Kyle Pitts, Mitch Piatnik and Fagan hit consecutive singles. Tyler Bocock followed with a two-run single through the left side, giving the Hatters a 2-0 lead.
After missing out on several opportunities to extend the lead, Stetson finally got back on the board in the top of the eighth. The Hatters loaded the bases with none out on a pair of singles and an error, and Garrett Russini knocked in the first run with a single through the right side. Mike Fernland followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.
But Mercer battled back in the home half of the eighth, scoring three runs to get within 4-3. Chesny Young and Derrick Workman sandwiched RBI singles around a run-scoring groundout by Nick Backlund to cut the lead to one. But Tyler Warmoth, who relieved Mitchell Jordan with one out and two on, retired Nate Moorhouse on a pop up to end the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, Warmoth retired the Bears in order to preserve the win, recording his eighth save in the process.
How big was the weekend for Stetson? Not only did the Hatters clinch a spot in the A-Sun Tournament, but they did something no opponent had done at Claude Smith Field in two years: win a weekend series. Mercer owned a 22-2 home record coming into this weekend, and had just beaten Florida in a mid-week game.
“We talked about gaining some momentum heading into the tournament,” said Dunn. “Of course, we weren’t in the tournament when we got up here, but we took care of that last night. This is not an easy place for opponents to win. We did a good job grinding out these last two games. We scored enough runs to win the series, but we did leave too many runners on base, and if we're going to find a way to win the tournament we’re going to have to be more efficient.”
Stetson collected 11 hits on Sunday, with Fagan, Russini and Bocock each getting two. Russini also ripped his team-leading 18h double of the year, part of a 6-for-12 effort on the weekend.
Stetson handed Mercer starting pitcher Eric Nyquist his first loss of the season (7-1), tagging the right-hander for four runs on nine hits in seven innings.
The Hatters close out the 2014 regular season when they host USC Upstate for a three-game conference series, beginning 6:30 p.m., Thursday at Melching Field.