FORT MYERS, Fla.—Kennesaw State’s Gabe Friese out-dueled Stetson’s Kurt Schluter in leading the Owls to a 2-1 win over Stetson in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship, Saturday at Swanson Stadium.
The loss ends Stetson’s season at 26-34, while Kennesaw State (36-21) advances to the championship round on Sunday.
In his final game at Stetson, Schluter (2-2) was simply outstanding. The fifth-year senior tossed seven innings, scattering eight hits and allowing just two runs. He threw 107 pitches, including 73 for strikes, and struck out three batters without a walk.
“He’s a warrior,” said Stetson head coach Pete Dunn of Schluter. “He’s been here five years and he knows how to win. We thought going in to the game that if we could get five innings from him we’d be fortunate, but he gave us seven quality innings and just battled the whole way. If somebody told me they’d only score two runs, I’d say we were going to win that game.”
But Friese (2-1) was equally impressive for the Owls. The right-hander limited the Hatters to just an unearned run in his eight innings of work, allowing three hits and striking out three and walking one.
Stetson opened the scoring in the top of the first. Mike Fernland reached on an error leading off the inning, and moved to second on a wild pitch. Tyler Bocock’s ground out moved Fernland to third and he eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Patrick Mazeika to give Stetson a 1-0 lead.
Kennesaw State tied the game when Max Pentecost led off the forth inning with a solo home run.
The Owls took the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth. Pentecost led off with a single and scored two batters later on an infield hit by Brennan Morgan to make it a 2-1 game.
Stetson made the Owls sweat in the top of the ninth. Taylor Cockrell cracked a two-out single, and Garrett Russini followed with a four-pitch walk. With the tying and go-ahead runs on base, Josh Powers lined a 1-2 pitch from reliever Justin McCalvin into the left field corner but the ball was foul by about a foot. Three pitches later, Powers flew out to deep left field to end the game.
“We did exactly what we needed to do in the ninth,” said Dunn. “The ball Powers hit was six inches foul. I couldn’t see it from the dugout but I looked at (third base coach Mark) Leavitt as soon the ball hit the ground, and he was holding his arms up so I knew he saw it foul as well. Six inches the other way, it’s a fair ball and we score two, maybe more. It’s cliche to say, but it is a game of inches.”
In addition to Schluter, five other Stetson seniors closed out their careers on Saturday. Robert Bruce, Mike Fernland, Austin Perez, K’Shawn Smith and Kyle Zech suited up for the final time.
“I’m proud of the seniors and our effort this weekend,” said Dunn. “People looked at our record and probably didn’t think we’d do anything this week, or that we didn’t deserve to be here. But our kids didn’t believe it. We really played hard and I’m proud of them.”
KSU had eight hits, with all of them coming from three players. Morgan was 3-for-3, while Pentecost and Matt Bahnik had two each.