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Hatters Baseball set to open A-Sun play at FGCU

Stetson University Baseball vs The Citadel

The primaries are over for the Stetson baseball team. The Hatters will begin the race for the 2016 Atlantic Sun Conference title on Friday when they open a three-game series at Florida Gulf Coast.

For the next seven weeks the Hatters will be campaigning from Ft. Myers to Jacksonville and from Kennesaw, Ga., to Newark, NJ, as they look to end a four-year dry spell without a league crown. The four seasons without a title equals the longest in Coach Pete Dunn’s 37 seasons as head coach.

In addition to getting off to a good start in A-Sun play, the Hatters will be looking to give Dunn another milestone victory. The next Stetson win will be No. 1,300 in Dunn’s career, making him just the 21st baseball coach in NCAA history to reach that milestone. He currently stands seventh on the active career wins list.

“Those things are nice when they happen, but that is not what we are focused on,” Dunn said. “Our focus from the beginning was to win an A-Sun title and return to the NCAA Tournament. This weekend is our first opportunity to face an A-Sun opponent, and Florida Gulf Coast always has a very good team.”

The Hatters enter the weekend with a four-game win streak and a 16-13 overall record on the year. The Eagles, who are also opening A-Sun play for 2016, are 13-16 on the season and have lost five straight, including a 4-0 home loss to No. 2 Miami on Tuesday.

The games at FGCU are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Success for the Hatters lies in the hands of the pitching staff that has, with the exception of one weekend, dominated opponents. Outside of three games at Coastal Carolina, the Hatters have allowed more than four earned runs in a game just three times since the first of March. That translates to an even 2.00 ERA.

The Stetson pitchers will need to be on top of their game going into Swanson Stadium, which is a hitter-friendly park. FGCU also has four of the top hitters in the Atlantic Sun, including sophomore shortstop Matt Reardon, who is second in the league with a .385 average on the year.

Preseason A-Sun Player of the Year Jake Noll, the Eagles’ junior second baseman, is fifth in the league in hitting with a .355 average and leads the league with 40 runs batted in. His seven home runs on the season ranked third in the league.

As a team, FGCU enters league play with a .271 team batting average.

The Hatters will rely on a trio of right-handed starters who are all coming off strong outings last week, as well as a shutdown bullpen, to contain the FGCU attack.

Junior Mitchell Jordan has pitched into the sixth inning in six of his seven starts this year and, with the exception of his one bad outing at Coastal Carolina, has a 2.37 ERA on the year and is averaging 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings this year. He’ll get the ball in the season opener on Friday against FGCU’s senior right-hander Brady Anderson.

Anderson (3-4, 3.02) had a streak of three straight wins snapped last Friday at Evansville despite allowing just one earned run in seven innings of work. A work-horse on the mound, Anderson is averaging better than six innings per start this year. It will be the first time Anderson has ever pitched against the Hatters.

The game will be Jordan’s third career outing against FGCU. He is a perfect 2-0 against the Eagles, winning as both a starter and a reliever. Combined, he has worked nine innings against FGCU, allowing four runs on 10 hits with nine strikeouts.

Stetson’s top hitter entering the weekend series is freshman Kirk Sidwell, who has a .315 average on the year and is riding a nine-game hit streak. Junior Vance Vizcaino has also started to heat up offensively, he is hitting .291 on the year, and has reached base in 22 consecutive games.

The second game of the weekend series will feature the defending A-Sun co-Pitcher of the Week, Stetson sophomore Brooks Wilson (3-4, 2.92) against FGCU junior right-hander Garrett Anderson (1-1, 4.32). Wilson went the distance in his last outing, a two-hit shutout of The Citadel, in which he recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts.

Wilson won his only outing against FGCU last year, working 5.2 innings while allowing two runs on nine hits in an 8-2 Stetson win. Anderson pitched an inning of relief against the Hatters last year, allowing four runs on four hits.

Sunday’s series finale will feature a pair of freshmen as Stetson’s Logan Gilbert (2-0, 1.91) will be opposed by FGCU’s Ryan Lang (2-3, 7.04). Lang has worked more than three innings in a game just three times this year. He surrendered five earned runs on nine hits in three innings in his last outing, at Evansville.

Only the opening game of the three-game series will be broadcast, with the live stream featured on A-Sun TV. Live stats for all three games will be available through Stetsonstats.com and you can always keep up with the Hatters on Twitter @StetsonBaseball.