Perhaps the biggest play in Stetson’s 9-8 victory over visiting Bethune-Cookman on Tuesday night at Melching Field was one that went almost unnoticed at the time.
After jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the Wildcats in the second inning, the Hatters put things on cruise control until B-CU started showing signs of life. In the seventh inning, with the lead cut to 7-4, the Hatters added a pair of insurance runs, the second of which came on an old-fashioned double steal.
The move came with two out in the seventh with Ryan Lashley at third and Kevin Lindheim on at first. With a struggling Spencer Theisen at the plate, Lindheim broke for second base on an 0-1 pitch. As the throw went through to second, Lashley broke for the plate while Lindheim slammed on the breaks. The run down lasted just long enough for Lashley to score.
“It wasn’t very artistic and I wouldn’t give it any style points, but it is a W,” Hatters coach Pete Dunn said. “It is somewhat disappointing. We have to be happy with the win but, as a coach, I saw a lot of things out there that I wasn’t real pleased with.”
Stetson improved to 27-13 with the victory while the Wildcats fall to 24-17.
That stolen run, coupled with a throw from Kyle Zech in the top of the eighth that cut down Jairo Acevedo at the plate when he tried to score on a two-out single to left by Brashad Johnson, turned out to be the defining moments of what was not a very well played game by either team.
While there was just one error in the game, and that was a costly one, allowing two Bethune-Cookman runs to score in that eighth inning, there were plenty of other less than stellar performances in the game.
The most troublesome for Dunn was the effort turned in by members of the Stetson bull pen, who took over in the sixth inning with the Hatters leading 7-1 behind freshman starting pitcher Josh Powers (2-1).
“Powers did a great job again and I am proud of him,” Dunn said. “He struggled with his command a little in the first inning, but came right back from a 3-0 count. He did a nice job.”
Powers walked one and struck out three in five innings while allowing just one run on six hits.
From there, the Hatters sent six more pitchers to the mound to cover the final four frames, with senior Robbie Powell going the final 1.1 innings to get his 11th save of the year.
“The most disappointing thing was that our bull pen didn’t throw strikes when we needed it to,” Dunn said. “When you go to your bull pen in a game like that, the most important thing you can do is go out there and fill the strike zone up, and we didn’t do that. We got behind and walked people and, when you mix some hits in, they are right back in the game.”
The Hatters jumped on Bethune-Cookman starter Ali Simpson (1-1), who was making just his third start after returning from Tommy John surgery, in the second inning. Simpson gave up two singles, hit a batter and walked another before getting pulled from the game. Scott Garner came on in relief and surrendered a walk, followed by four straight hits. The big hit in the inning for Stetson was a three-run triple by Ben Carhart.
The seven runs Stetson scored in the frame tied for the most the Hatters have scored in an inning this year.
“Carhart’s double in the second inning was big and then, coming up with the double-steal in the seventh scored what turned out to be the winning run,” Dunn said. “I am sure people wondered what we were doing there, but I never felt comfortable in that game, and it turned out there was a reason. They have a good club that has won a lot of games, and they kept hanging around.”
The Wildcats crept back into the game with three runs in the seventh, two of which came on a Brashad Johnson single. He had three hits in the game for B-CU and drove in four runs. Brandon Turner also had three hits and scored three times for the Wildcats.
“You have to give Garner credit for shutting us down after he got out of the second,” Dunn said. “We still had some runners in scoring position but we were unable to come up big when we had opportunities to pad that lead. They just hung in there. We talked in the dugout that seven runs was not enough and that the game was far from being over.”
Stetson was led offensively by Sam Kimmel, Mark Jones, Lashley and Tanner Blackman with two hits each. Jones extended his hitting streak to 14 games with an RBI double to cap the seven-run second after his apparent triple to open the inning was taken away when the umpires reversed their decision and ruled Turner’s play on the ball a catch.
The game was the 200th in Jones’ career at Stetson. He joins teammate Robert Crews in that exclusive club. Crews played in his 210th game on Tuesday.
Lashley came into the game for Stetson in the third inning after starting first baseman Kurt Schluter was hit on the forehead by a bad-hop ground ball.
The Hatters will be back in action this weekend when they head up I-95 to Jacksonville for a three-game series against North Florida. Friday’s game is set for a 6 p.m. start while game times for Saturday and Sunday are scheduled for 1 p.m.