The Hatters (22-10) completed a season sweep of the visiting Bulls (23-11) and won in come-from-behind fashion for the third time in their last three games.
The late rally lifted sophomore Cameron Griffin (3-0) to the victory. He was the fourth hurler on the night for Stetson, following freshman starter Josh Powers and relievers Tucker Donahue and Joe Dye. Combined, the Stetson pitchers held USF without an earned run on just seven hits with one walk and five strikeouts.
“Josh Powers pitched really well and didn’t have anything to show for it, in fact he almost had to take the loss,” Hatters coach Pete Dunn said. “He pitched awfully well, we just gave some runs away.
“I thought all of our pitchers really threw well. It was a good win. It was not like we like to draw it up because I hate errors and I hate bad defense. Even though we only made two errors, they were critical errors. We overcame that adversity and battled back to beat a good club.”
The Hatters’ big inning came against USF closer Ray Delphey (0-2), who allowed a two-out walk to Jones before surrendering three consecutive singles to Ryan Lashley, Mitchel Brennan and James Rasmussen.
Stetson took a bite from the error tree in the first inning, scoring the first run of the game as the result of an error by Kyle Teaf on a Blackman grounder up the middle. Spencer Theisen, who led off the game with a single and then stole second, came in to score on the play.
The runs the Hatters gave away came in the third and seventh innings, all the result of errors by Blackman, a freshman who made his first start at second base in place of senior Robert Crews, who had a death in his family and was not at the game.
The first error came with two out in the third when Blackman threw low to first on a ground ball by Teaf, who reached second when the ball went into the Stetson dugout. Consecutive singles by Chad Taylor and James Ramsey plated a pair of runs for the Bulls.
Stetson went back on top in the fourth inning when senior Mark Jones blasted a two-run homer off USF starter Matt Reed. Jones also homered off Reed last week in a 6-2 Stetson victory in Tampa.
“That was a huge swing of momentum for us, but those guys kept fighting,” Jones said of his homer. “We knew they were not going to lay down, but we just out-lasted them.”
The Bulls reclaimed the lead in the seventh after Jimmy Falla doubled to open the inning. Zac Gilcrease put down a sacrifice bunt, that resulted in a second error for Blackman, who was unable to make a catch at first base on a throw from catcher Sam Kimmel. Gilcrease came in to score later on a two-out single by Teaf.
“There were highs and lows in the game, but we ended it on a high and that is the important thing,” Dunn said.
Jones, who has seen his batting average rise by more than 100 points over the last couple of weeks, said it was an important victory for the Hatters.
“This was a big win for us because that is a good USF club,” Jones said. “Josh came out and gave us a good outing and we were able to get some hits when we needed them to get the win. We just had to keep fighting and keep working to put together good at bats. We have a good group of guys that is not going to ever give up and Lash and Mitchel both came up with big hits to help us get the win.”
The Hatters will now go back on the road in Atlantic Sun Conference play this weekend for three games at Kennesaw State. The Owls are currently tied for second in the league race with an 8-4 record. Stetson will meet the Owls on Friday night at 6 p.m. with the other games in the series set for Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.