|Stetson freshman Carlos Garmendia went through the full slate of emotions during the Hatters’ weekend series against Princeton.
In four games against the visiting Tigers, the Miami native was rung up on strikes nine time. But, in three of the four games he delivered the hit to drive in the winning run for Stetson.
He capped his roller coaster weekend on Sunday with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Hatters a dramatic 7-6 victory. The win gave Stetson the series and evened the Hatters’ record on the year at 7-7. Princeton fell to 1-7 with their third one-run loss of the weekend.
Stetson opened the ninth inning in a 6-3 hole, thanks in large part to a six-run seventh inning by the Tigers that erased six solid innings of work from the Hatters’ freshman starting pitcher Adam Schaly.
Even after Stetson had rallied to tie the score at 6-6 and loaded the bases with two out for Garmendia, he almost did not get a chance to play the role of hero for the Hatters.
“He had three strikeouts going into that last at bat and I was thinking about hitting for him,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. “Coach (Brian) Pruett and Coach (Mark) Leavitt have been talking to him about getting his front foot down early to get to the back side. He has been getting jammed a lot. I walked up to him before that at bat and told him to get his front foot down early and hit the ball out front. He did what we asked him to do.”
Garmendia had that conversation with his coach in the front of his mind when he stepped to the plate.
“Coach just came up to me and told me to get the foot down and get a pitch to drive and that is what I did,” Garmendia said. “Anyone on the team could end up in that situation. It just so happened that is was me this weekend. Anyone else on the team would have done the same thing because we are all out here fighting for each other. My teammates put me in the situation and I did what I had to do.
“We have been fighting all year. It doesn’t matter what the score is or what inning it is, we are going to keep fighting to win games. Winning is everything.”
The rally in the bottom of the ninth inning allowed senior reliever Joe Dye (1-0) to pick up just the second victory of his Stetson career. Dye, who normally only faces right-handed hitters, came on in Princeton’s six-run seventh inning and held the Tigers at bay the rest of the way.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and get ahead to hold the game where we were to give us a chance to come back,” Dye said. “In the fall I worked on some different stuff to make myself more effective against lefties because they have been a problem for me. I was mixing it up and finally got an opportunity to use it.”
Dunn said the performance Dye gave might mean the Hatters will have to give him more opportunities to pitch in longer outings.
“We got to a point where we decided to just ride with Joe,” Dunn said. “He kept the ball down, and that was the key. Really, the only hits he gave up were to the right-handers who went to the opposite field. They took a left-handed approach. We normally wouldn’t leave him in there like that but, even though he is a fifth year senior, maybe we learned something about riding him a little more than we have in the past.”
Stetson’s winning rally in the ninth started when Princeton reliever A.J. Goetz walked Robert Bruce. After a strikeout, junior K’shawn Smith turned in a solid at bat, fouling off multiple two-strike pitches before turning on an inside fastball and driving it past the Princeton third baseman for a double.
It was the first extra-base hit for the Hatters since Patrick Mazeika’s game-tying homer in the ninth inning on Friday, a stretch of 29 innings.
Kevin Fagan followed up, working a full count before blasting a shot over the right-fielder’s head for a two-run triple, cutting the Princeton lead to 6-5.
The Tigers made a pitching change, bringing in sophomore left-hander Tyler Foote (1-1). He started off by hitting Tanner Blackman, then almost got a game-ending double play off the bat of Mazeika, but the relay to first was not in time, allowing Fagan to score the tying run.
“He is a good freshman and I think he really likes the pressure situations,” Dye said. “The last couple of games it has been our style to keep the games close and get them at the end.”
Dunn agreed with his senior co-captain.
“That is the way it goes with young teams,” Dunn said. “We had some help, but sometimes you just have to go up there and put the bat on your shoulder and let them help you. Then we were able to come up with some big hits when we needed them.”
Schaly fared much better in his second start for Stetson. After struggling with his command on Tuesday against FIU, he worked six solid innings against the Tigers, allowing just one run on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
“Schaly did a great job,” Dunn said. “He came back and pitched well. He was disappointed in his start the other night against FIU and really deserved more today than what he got.”
The trouble started for Stetson after Schaly surrendered a single to Tyler Servais to open the seventh inning. Freshman Tyler Warmoth, who pitched three no-hit innings against the Tigers on Friday, surrendered five runs on two hits with two walks and a big error mixed in on Sunday.
“The mood wasn’t very good in the dugout after that,” Dye said. “Once we were able to scratch and get that one run back in the eighth inning, we thought we would have a chance.”
“We tried to stay upbeat,” Dunn said. “It is hard because this team is so young and has such a fragile psyche right now. They don’t quite understand how to act when good things happen, or when bad things happen. You are always trying to teach them to stay away from that emotional roller coaster and keep and even keel. It wasn’t terrible after they put the six runs up. Everyone was disappointed, but they didn’t get too down.”
The Hatters will have to come right back after a long weekend series to host cross-county rival Bethune-Cookman (9-8). The game is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start. The Hatters will see their long season-opening homestand come to an end next weekend when they host Fairfield (3-5) in another four-game series.
“We can’t look ahead or even worry about Fairfield right now,” Dunn said. “With this team, we are truly taking things one day at a time and one game at a time.”