On Sunday at Harmon Field, the Stetson Hatters did just enough of the little things to take a 2-1 victory over North Florida to clinch a series win over the Ospreys. With the win on Sunday, the Hatters (29-14, 11-7) slipped past Kennesaw State into third place in the Atlantic Sun Conference race, just two games behind league-leading USC Upstate.
The Ospreys slip to 25-18 overall and 7-11 in league play, in eighth place in the race for the A-Sun Tournament. The top six teams in the league standings will advance to the tournament, which will be held at Melching Field May 23-27.
To get the win on Sunday, the Hatters combined outstanding pitching, great defense and just enough offense.
“That was a huge win,” Stetson head coach Pete Dunn said. “This time of year they all matter when you are fighting for your life. We are fighting for our life and they are fighting for their life. We are fighting to get in and to enhance our position in the standings and fighting to improve our RPI.”
For Stetson, it was another sparkling Sunday performance on the mound for senior Will Dorsey (6-3), who seems to get better-and-better with each start. Against UNF, Dorsey held the Ospreys scoreless through eight innings, allowing just three hits and one walk.
In six starts against A-Sun foes this year, Dorsey is 4-0 with a 2.43 ERA. The Hatters are 6-0 in those outings.
“That is two weeks in a row where Will has gone out there and been a bulldog on the mound,” Hatters senior Mark Jones, who scored what turned out to be the winning run on Sunday, said. “We really needed a performance like that and every time we do it seems like he steps up to give us a big game like that. That is a good UNF team that doesn’t give up. They have beaten the No. 1 team in the nation.”
One day after having his 15-game hit streak snapped, Jones went right back to work on Sunday, picking up and pair of hits. He led off the Stetson ninth inning with a single on the first pitch from Ospreys starter Tyler Moore (5-2). UNF turned to reliever Evan Stermer and, from there, the Hatters played small ball.
Kurt Schluter, who was not in the lineup because after tweaking a hamstring on Saturday, delivered a two-strike sacrifice bunt to advance Jones to second. With Trey Blackman at the plate, and in an early two strike deficit, Jones distracted Stemer, forcing a balk to advance to third.
“Once I got on base and Kurt got the bunt down to get me to second, I had to find a way to get to third,” Jones said. “I think they knew that I had been wanting to run all weekend, and I wanted to give Trey a chance to drive me in. I was biding my time a little and it got to a 1-2 count and I made up my mind that I was going to go as he was about to make a pitch, but then he tried to step off but it was too late for him.”
With Jones now 90-feet away, Blackman went back to work at the plate. He fouled off a couple of pitches from the tough left-hander and got the count back to even before delivering a long fly ball to center, scoring Jones on a sacrifice fly.
“I was just trying to get the run in and do my job,” Blackman said. “I have had times this year when I have not done the job that I needed to do, but I wanted to make sure I did my job today because I didn’t want to hear it from Coach Dunn.”
Dunn said the entire effort in the ninth made up for some missed chances earlier in the game.
“We had squandered some opportunities by failing to get a bunt down (in the fifth) and not getting a runner over,” Dunn said. “Then we had a base-running mistake that took us out of that inning.
“When we got Mark on in the ninth, I sent Schluter up there to get the bunt down. He got to two strikes and I still felt good that he would get the bunt down because he is a clutch guy. After he got the bunt down, Mark forced the balk and then Trey did a heck of a job against a really good pitcher. He got two quick strikes before fouling off a couple of pitches, then he got the sac fly.”
With a 2-0 lead in hand, Dorsey went to the mound in the ninth to try to close out the Ospreys. That didn’t happen, however, when Tyler Marincov led off the inning with a triple that only missed leaving the park on the effort of James Rasmussen, who went over the wall in left to keep the ball in play.
“What can you say about Dorsey on Sunday,” Dunn said. “We had Robbie (Powell) ready, but Will hadn’t thrown that many pitches and still had command. To me, that triple was a pop up. You have to play the field, but it was a 365-foot triple that in other parks is an out.”
Powell came on from the pen and got a ground out, which scored Marincov, before getting a strikeout and a fly ball to deep left to end the game. It was Powell’s 13th save of the year and his sixth in his last six outings.
“I had enough to finish it,” Dorsey said. “I got to 2-2 and, with no one on and a two-run lead, I had to throw him something over the plate. He hit it pretty well. We have all the confidence in the world in Powell as our closer so he came in and shut the door.”
But Dorsey was dominant throughout the game. He allowed just three runners to reach second base, and one of those was due to consecutive two-out throwing errors in the fourth inning. He walked just one and struck out five while throwing 107 pitches on the day.
“It was a good outing, but I felt a little sluggish through the first two innings,” Dorsey said. “I left some balls up and they hit some balls hard, but the guys were making some plays behind me. I know they are doing everything they can to get some runs, but all I can do is focus on doing my job. I know that if I do that they are going to scrap together enough.”
The key throughout the day was getting ahead in the count. Of the 31 hitters Dorsey faced on Sunday, he started 20 of them off with strike one, many of which came on breaking pitches.
“I try to mix in a lot of breaking pitches when I am out there, and there may have been a few more than usual today,” Dorsey said. “Strike one is huge for any pitcher and that is definitely the case for me.”
Blackman, who has become Dorsey’s personal catcher, said working behind the plate with Dorsey on the mound is easy.
“Will is the best pitcher to catch,” Blackman said. “You just put your glove out there and he hits the spot every time. He goes out there and competes.”
The only other run in the game came in the second inning off Moore, who was almost as good on the mound as Dorsey. The run was the result of an error by UNF first baseman Michael Wesner, which allowed Mitchel Brennan to reach to start the inning. Blackman followed with a walk before Spencer Theisen sacrificed both runners into scoring position. Tanner Blackman followed with a ground ball to short, allowing Brennan to score.
“We had some problems today in execution and a base-running mistake but, overall, I thought our guys played hard,” Dunn said. “They have to keep that up, keep the concentration level and minimize mistakes. If they can keep doing that we are going to be OK.”
The Hatters will open a crucial six-game home stand on Wednesday when eighth-ranked UCF visits Melching Field for a 6:30 p.m. game. That will be followed by a three-game series against league-leading USC Upstate next weekend before the No. 1 ranked team in the country, Florida State, comes in for a pair on May 8-9.