Stetson Season Comes to Jarring Conclusion
The 2017 Stetson Baseball season came to a sudden, jarring, end on Thursday in the ASUN Tournament at Melching Field.
Unable to play their regularly scheduled opening round game on Wednesday due to weather, the Hatters opened play Thursday morning with a 10 a.m. first pitch against Kennesaw State. The Owls used a six-run seventh inning to turn a 4-4 game into an easy KSU win, sending the Hatters immediately into a loser’s bracket game against Lipscomb.
Like in the game against KSU, it was one bad inning that cost the Hatters dearly as the Bisons scored four runs, all unearned, in the sixth inning to take an 8-6 victory.
Stetson, which had battled all season to get back to .500 by the start of the tournament, finishes 27-29 in its first season under head coach Steve Trimper.
“We gave up a lot of runs today with two outs, and that is really out of character for this team,” Trimper said. “We didn’t play within our character. This team has been so strong on the mound, especially with two outs, bulldogging it out. We didn’t lose our fight, the guys continued to grind, we just didn’t execute baseball plays and baseball pitches like we have been.
“There were just so many things that were uncharacteristic of us and it goes to show you that no one in life is perfect. We have to always learn from our mistakes, and this is a microcosm of that. We have some unbelievable talent on this team and I am so proud of them, but we just didn’t execute today when it was important.”
Kennesaw State 10, Stetson 5
The Owls got things going against Hatters starter Brooks Wilson (4-7) early. Wilson retired the first two hitters of the day with ease, but then surrendered a double to Chris Erwin and an RBI single to Austin Upshaw.
KSU made it 4-0 in the third inning, getting a two-out, two-run single from Taylor Allum and an RBI single from Corey Greeson.
The four-run lead appeared to be plenty for Owls’ junior right-hander Tony Dibrell, who already owns a complete-game win against Stetson this year. He cruised through the first three innings before running into trouble in the fourth.
Jorge Arenas got things started for Stetson with a one-out hit and advanced to second when the ball got past center fielder Erwin. After Colton Lightner drew a two-out walk, freshman Ben Rowdon laced a double to the wall in center to score two runs.
Another Stetson freshman, Andrew MacNeil, followed Rowdon’s hit with a two-run home run to right field, knotting the game at 4-4.
“Every game is an emotional roller coaster, and I think we were battle tested with all of the one-run games we have been in this year,” Trimper said. “That is just the way this team was.”
Bolstered by the offensive surge, Wilson struck out the side in the fifth inning, but then ran into big trouble in the sixth. Garrett Hodges started things with a solo home run, putting the Owls back on top 5-4. That was the first of six consecutive hits for Kennesaw State in the inning – with two coming off Wilson and four off of senior reliever Tyler Keller.
Allum’s three-run homer put the Owls up 9-4 and then David Chabut capped the frame with a two-out RBI single for a 10-4 lead.
Stetson got a run back in the seventh when Kirk Sidwell drew a bases loaded walk off reliever Brian Exley, but Gabe Friese came in out of the KSU bull pen and shut the Hatters down the rest of the way to earn his third save of the year. Dibrell improved to 7-4 on the season.
The Owls (24-30) move on to face Florida Gulf Coast in the late game Thursday.
“We weren’t a high slugging team, we relied on a couple of guys for stolen bases and there were a lot of young guys in the lineup,” Trimper said. “There was a lot of growth that happened during this season and we were battle-tested because of all the tight games. I felt that our club was prepared for the tournament because of that and the dugout never got tight today. Up until the last out of both games, we were still very positive that we were going to get it done.”
Stetson had just six hits in the game to 16 for the Owls. Upshaw had three for KSU followed by Hodges, Erwin, Helms, Allum, Greeson and Chabut with two each.
Lipscomb 8, Stetson 6
The Hatters came right back after the tough loss and had to play for their season against a Lipscomb team they had just played last weekend. Stetson sent ASUN Pitcher of the Year Logan Gilbert to the mound to try to keep the season alive.
A two-out, two-run single by Arenas put Stetson on top in the first inning. For most of the year, a two-run lead for Gilbert was gold, but the sophomore didn’t have his best stuff. After retiring the first five Bisons, Blake Thomas singled up the middle to get things going for Lipscomb.
Gilbert surrendered a walk before Lipscomb catcher Jeffrey Crison singled in a run. After another walk, the Bisons’ Michael Gigliotti had his first big hit of the day, a two-run single, to give Lipscomb a 3-2 lead.
That lead grew to 4-2 in the fourth when Thomas drew a leadoff walk and worked his way around the bases to score on Crisan’s sacrifice fly.
Stetson answered in the bottom of the inning against Bisons’ starter Brady Puckett (8-6). Jack Gonzalez drew a leadoff walk, moved up on a Sidwell single and the scored on a Lightner hit to left that got past Lipscomb’s Tevin Symonette. MacNeil followed with a two-out single to score both Sidwell and Lightner, putting the Hatters up 5-4.
Gilbert was unable to get through five innings, giving up a pair of two-out hits in the fifth before Jack Perkins (7-5) came on to get the final out. It was Perkins in the sixth who ran into trouble that turned the game.
After Thomas led off with a single, Allan Hooker dropped down a sacrifice bunt. Lightner fielded the ball and made a strong throw to first, but ball and runner arrived at the same time. Hooker collided with Mike Spooner at the bag as he tried to make the catch, but the ball came free, allowing Hooker to reach on the error.
Perkins retired the next two batters before facing Gigliotti. He jumped out to a quick 0-2 count, but then left a fastball over the middle of the plate, and Gigliotti made him pay with a three-run homer for a 7-5 Bisons lead. Lipscomb followed with three more hits, with Zeke Dodson driving in an insurance run.
Lightner delivered a solo home run in the bottom of the inning, cutting the deficit to 8-6, but Lipscomb turned the game over to closer Denton Norman in the seventh and he allowed just one hit, to the first batter he faced, before retiring nine straight to earn his seventh save and end the Stetson season.
“It just came down to the fact that the two teams we played today were better than us,” Trimper said. “They executed more baseball plays than we did. That doesn’t take away from how good we are or how good the other teams is the ASUN Conference are, it is a hard-fought conference season and a hard-fought conference tournament with good teams.”
Spooner and Lightner had two hits each for Stetson while Lipscomb got two each from Gigliotti, Case Sorrells, Dodson, Thomas and Crisan.
The Bisons advanced to play in another elimination game on Friday at 3 p.m. against the loser of Thursday night’s game between Kennesaw State and FGCU.
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.