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Hatters Top Maine 6-3 to Open Weekend Series

After struggling to generate hits during the opening weekend of the 2013 season, the Stetson Hatters bounced back on Thursday night, banging out 15 hits to take a 6-3 victory over the visiting Maine Black Bears.

Eight of the nine Stetson starters had at least one hit in the game, and five had at least two hits. Freshman first baseman Patrick Mazeika continued his hot hitting, banging out four hits, including an RBI double in the third.

Stetson evened its season record at 2-2 with the victory while Maine dropped its fifth straight to start the season.

“I am very pleased, overall, with the way we swung the bats,” Hatters coach Pete Dunn said. “We had 15 hits, and that is a lot better than what we did last weekend. I am not sure if we had 15 hits all weekend. We’ve still got a long way to go, but we kept plugging away.

“With a young team like this you have to move one step at a time, and I think we took a step tonight that we can build on.”

The Hatters could have easily gotten frustrated early in the game after getting runners on base in each of the first two innings. Stetson was unable to turn those chances into runs, however, because Maine turned double plays to get out of both frames.

“That was a good ball club out there for Maine,” Dunn said. “They are a veteran club with a really good shortstop. We squared some balls up early in the game and they were able to turn those into double plays.”

The Black Bears got on the board first in the game, scoring a single unearned run in the third inning off Stetson starter Kurt Schluter. Sam Balzano reached to start the inning on an error, stole second and then moved up and scored on ground outs.

The Hatters answered in their half of the inning off Maine starter Luke Morrill when Mazeika delivered a two-out double to score Tyler Bocock, who had walked.

The game remained tied at 1-1 until the sixth inning when Maine got a pair of one-out singles and then scored on a ground out by Fran Whitten, who by that time had taken over pitching duties for the Black Bears.

The Maine lead lasted until the seventh inning when the Hatters strung together four consecutive hits against Whitten (0-1), with the big blow being a two-run double by James Rasmussen to put Stetson in the lead. The Hatters added two more runs in the eighth inning on two-out singles by Kevin Fagan and Bocock.

“It was obvious that the couple of runs we scored there in the eighth inning made it a whole different ball game,” Dunn said. “I am proud of the guys for the way they battled.”

The Black Bears refused to go quietly in the ninth inning, loading the bases off junior Austin Perez (1-0) before freshman left-hander Adam Schaly came in to get a strikeout, a sacrifice fly and a line out to second to end the game, earning his first collegiate save.

“I thought Schluter threw the ball well early,” Dunn said. “AP came in and pitched well and then Schaly came in and finished. He wasn’t real sharp, but he did what he had to do with a four run lead.”

In addition to the four hits from Mazeika, the Hatters got two hits each from Bocock, Rasmussen, Mitchel Brennan and Carlos Garmendia. Alex Calbick and Troy Black had two hits each to lead Maine.

“We have still got to play better defense,” Dunn said. “We are not making the routine plays. We were lucky that we dodged a bullet early and got out of some innings where we made mistakes. The most glaring thing in the game tonight was our poor defense.”

The Hatters will attempt to take the second game of the series on Friday night when freshman right-hander Josh Powers makes his second start of the year. Powers allowed just one run on five hits last week in his season debut.

“I am confident in Powers because you always know what you are going to get out of him,” Dunn said. “All you can ask from him is to go out and give us the same kind of start he gave us last week, which was a really quality start.”

The second game of the weekend series is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start on Friday night.