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Hatters Beat Hartford, 8-3; Now Face Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. Saturday

For five innings Friday night at Melching Field, Hartford gave host Stetson all the Hatters wanted in the opening game of the NCAA DeLand Regional.

aerial of ball field

The Hatters face Oklahama State in a winners’ bracket contest Saturday at 7 p.m. in Melching Field.

Then, like they have done all year, the Hatters turned on the jets over the final three innings and pulled away for an 8-3 victory over the Hawks. It was the 16th consecutive win for Stetson, one shy of the school record, and it was a record 30th win at Melching Field on the year.

Hartford (26-30) will have to return to face South Florida (35-21-1) in an elimination game on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Hatters (46-11) will square off against Oklahoma State (30-24-1) in a winners’ bracket contest at 7 p.m. OSU defeated USF 9-2 in Friday’s opening game to set the schedule for Saturday.

There will be single-game general admission tickets available at the gate on a first-come, first-served basis.

Stetson had to overcome some uncharacteristic mistakes on Friday night to get the win, but the Hatters got solid pitching from the duo of starter Joey Gonzalez and sophomore Mitchell Senger (9-2), and scored seven runs over their final three innings to pull away for the win.

portrait in uniform

Coach Steve Trimper

“Quite honestly, it has been a great week here in DeLand,” Hatters coach Steve Trimper said. “We have had a lot of media in town, we had the best crowd we have had in my time here, and it is hard to simulate that and get your guys ready to play in that environment.

“Once we got through the fifth inning, we talked about flushing those innings and going out to win the last few innings.”

Gonzalez was not as sharp as he has been this year, but he was able to work his way around the seven hits he allowed over six innings, allowing just two runs, one earned, with five strikeouts. He was able to strand seven runners on base and even came back after a 45 minute lightning delay in the third to get a strikeout, leaving two on base.

The Hatters didn’t fare as well against Dombkowski. The freshman left-hander allowed just three hits over the first five innings. One of those was a one out double by Eric Foggo in the fourth. After moving up on a ground ball, Foggo scored the first run of the night on a wild pitch, one of three for the Hawks.

Hartford was finally able to take advantage of a scoring chance in the sixth inning, getting consecutive two-out singles from Jackson Olson and Drew Holtgrieve to tie the game. Drew DeMartino followed with a ground ball to third that Stetson’s Jonathan Meola not only misplayed for an error, but he also interfered with Olson running the bases, resulting in an interference call that game Hartford a 2-1 lead.

Brooks Wilson

The Hatters did not trail for long. Jacob Koos opened the home half of the inning by drawing a walk. He then stole second and third base before Brooks Wilson worked a walk to put runners on the corners with no one out. Foggo tied the game with a single to left and then, after a pitching change, Jorge Arenas doubled home Wilson for a 3-2 Stetson lead.

Senger came on in relief of Gonzalez in the seventh, but found himself with a runner on base right away on a Foggo error at first base. After a ground ball moved the runner into scoring position, Aston Bardzell singled the run home, tying the game again at 3-3.

Stetson answered immediately again in the bottom of the frame. Bogart got things going with a single to right center before Koos was hit on the elbow by a pitch. Brooks Wilson tried to get down a sacrifice bunt on the first pitch he faced, but fouled the pitch off. After taking a ball, he laced a double down the right field line, scoring Bogart for a 4-3 lead. Koos later scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-3.

“I felt like I was pretty comfortable at the plate,” Wilson said. “The pitcher they started had a good arm and he was able to put his pitches where he wanted them, but it was just a matter of time before he got tired and something else happened.”

The Hatters put the game on ice in the eighth inning, after Koos made a spectacular diving catch in right center to end the Hawks’ half of the frame, getting a sacrifice fly from Bogart and a two-run single by Wilson.

Senger got the win in his first relief appearance of the year. He allowed the one unearned run on two hits over three innings and struck out three.

Offensively, Wilson had a pair of hits and drove in three runs while Foggo had two hits. Bardzell led the Hartford attack with three hits in the game.

“Obviously, Oklahoma State will be a formidable opponent tomorrow,” Trimper said Friday night. “They swung the bats really well in their game today. We just have to play the game, not the team. If we can go out and play the game and not worry about the team we’re playing, then the quality play will take care of itself.”

-Ricky Hazel