Inclement Weather Delays Hatters’ Game in ASUN Championship Tournament
Going into the 2016 ASUN Conference Tournament in Nashville, the Stetson baseball team was reeling. The Hatters had lost two straight series to end the year and only hoped to avoid the dreaded two-and-Q from the tournament.
What a difference a year makes. With an almost entirely new team, and a new head coach, the 2017 Hatters enter the ASUN Tournament at Melching Field with the expectation of winning the event for a second straight year.
Second seeded Stetson (27-27) will face fifth seeded Kennesaw State (23-30) on Thursday, May 25, at 10 a.m. in the opening round of the ASUN Tournament. (Inclement weather on Wednesday afternoon delayed the start of the tournament.)
Top seeded Jacksonville (33-22) faces No. 6 Lipscomb (27-26), while No. 3 Florida Gulf Coast (37-17) faces No. 4 North Florida (33-22).
The entire tournament is scheduled for broadcast on ESPN3 with Robert Harper and Brice Zimmerman calling the action. Live stats will be available throughout the week at www.StetsonStats.com.
Prior to Tuesday night’s ASUN Baseball Awards dinner, Hatters junior Brooks Wilson reflected on where the team was last year, and where it is now.
“We are absolutely ready,” Wilson said. “We are playing really good baseball right now and we are looking forward to it. Right now, we are a lot more confident than we were last year because we are playing much better baseball. Last year we went into the tournament just hoping to win the first game. Now, we believe we are going to win the first one, rather than just hoping for it.”
Wilson (4-6, 2.66) will make the start for the Hatters against Owls junior right-hander Tony Dibrell (6-4, 2.12). It will be the second time this year they have squared off. Kennesaw State won the first meeting by scoring three runs late in the game. It was one of just three games this year when the Hatters took a lead to the eighth inning and lost.
“I thought I threw a good game against those guys, I just have to go out and do what I have been doing all year,” Wilson said. “I have to limit the walks and limit the runs by getting ground balls for outs. I have to let the defense and offense do the work.”
Hatters coach Steve Trimper said all three games in the series against Kennesaw State could have gone either way and the Stetson players have no ill-will over the face that it was the only conference series the Hatters lost this year.
“I don’t think there is any chip because we owe these guys, they out-played us that weekend and earned the victories,” Trimper said. “We earned the other series when we went out and won them. We can only control what we can control and that is going out and playing well.
“When Kennesaw came in here, they were a very impressive team. Their starting pitchers were very good and their No. 1 pitcher is an All-Conference guy. He has very good numbers and they swing the bats well.”
Stetson’s trio of weekend starting pitchers, who rank 1-2-3 in the ASUN in strikeouts, all with more than 100 on the year, had their worst weekend of the season against Kennesaw State. The Hatters starters – Wilson, Jack Perkins and ASUN Pitcher of the Year Logan Gilbert – combined to allow 11 earned runs in 18 innings.
The Owls were the only league team that Gilbert, who is 10-0 on the year with a 1.71 ERA, did not earn a win against. He worked just 4.2 innings in his start against KSU, with freshman Ryan Stark getting the win in relief.
“I am ready for this,” Gilbert said. “It was my goal going into the year to help this team win a ring. Last year I only pitched one inning (in the tournament), but I am ready to go out there this year and help in any way that I can to get a ring. I will take the ball whenever they say it is my turn. I am just going to wait for my turn.”
This will be the first ASUN Tournament for Trimper, who took his Maine teams to a pair of titles in the America East Conference. He has a 13-14 career record in 11 conference tournaments.
“Conference tournament time just gets your juices going,” Trimper said. “It should be like that for every game, but this is a fun time of year. You have battled all year with your team, went through some ups and downs and endured some growing pains, and that is especially true with this team because we had to do everything starting in January. It is an exciting time. Our guys are ready to go and we are playing the best baseball we have played all year.”
Trimper said the thing he learned during his first season in the ASUN is how evenly matched the teams are, and how good the pitching is.
“Going into this tournament, all of these teams are very equal,” Trimper said. “My assessment from my first trip around the ASUN is that it was amazing how all of these top six are really good teams. The fact that Stetson could come through as the six seed last year and win it is a testament to that, and that could happen again this year because any one of these teams could win this tournament.
“It is going to come down to who plays well and who pitches well, who handles the ball and doesn’t make errors. That is what we have been doing over the last four or five weeks and that is what we hope to continue to do in this tournament.”
Despite finishing just one game out of first place, the Hatters had just one player, Gilbert, named to the All-Conference first team on Tuesday and just two others – junior catcher Austin Hale and sophomore first baseman Mike Spooner – named to the second team.
Wilson said the thing about the banquet that is special is the coming together as competitors for a fun evening before the competition starts.
“It is a time to come together and have good time with the players from the other teams and with the coaches,” Wilson said. “The awards mean something, but most of the guys are more focus on playing good baseball and winning a ring. The awards are great, but nothing compared to winning a championship.”
Trimper said that is the attitude for every member of the Stetson team entering the tournament.
“Individual accolades are great for the kids because it shows they had a great year, but I firmly believe that anyone on this team would trade an All-Conference plaque for a regional appearance and a conference championship,” Trimper said. “That is what we are focused on as a team. To get recognized in this league is a testament to their year, but that doesn’t make the team season any better. We are looking for team baseball much more than we are looking for individual accomplishments.”
Tickets for the 2017 ASUN Baseball Championship, both tournament passes and single-day passes, will be available at the Melching Field ticket booth. Tournament passes are available for $45 for general admission, $50 for 200 sections and $55 for 100 sections. Single-day passes for the same seats cost $15, $20 and $25.
About Stetson University Athletics: Stetson University’s Athletics Program has a vision of developing a culture of champions athletically, academically and within the community. This vision is accomplished through a mission of recruiting and developing student-athletes, coaches and staff, creating a culture of champions, within and outside of competition. The department operates with five core values: Championship Culture, Integrity, Excellence, Pride/Tradition and Leadership. To learn more about the Vision, Mission and Core Values for Stetson Athletics, visit GoHatters.com and click on Mission Statement under the Inside Athletics tab.