DeLand, FL - Despite another weather delay
which pushed the scheduled start time back by two hours, Stetson University's path on the "Road To Omaha" has become a lot clearer.
Win on Sunday and the #11 overall seed in the NCAA Baseball Tournament will set a new program record for consecutive wins and be on the way to a Super Regional for the first time in school history, likely on the road next weekend against #6 overall seed North Carolina.
Shortstop Jorge Arenas' three-run homer was the big blow in a five-run 5th inning, powering the #1 regional seed (47-11) to a 10-3 win - their 17th in a row - over #3 seed Oklahoma State University (30-25-1) in front of 1,959 fans at Melching Field.
Even though the Hatters wore one of their standard home uniforms - a green top and white pant - Stetson was, technically, the road team for the first time all year on their home ground due to NCAA rules. But that didn't matter much once the game started, as Stetson jumped on board in the top of the 1st inning despite two quick outs to start.
Center fielder Jacob Koos drew a walk and then scored all the way from 1st base on a single down the right field line from designated hitter Brooks Wilson.
Stetson's ace pitcher - Logan Gilbert - took it from there, tying a season high with 14 strikeouts to get his 11th win of the year. The junior right-hander held the Cowboys to two runs through the first seven innings thanks in part to stellar defense, especially from third baseman Jon Meola and catcher Austin Hale.
A day after making a critical error to give the lead away temporarily against Hartford, Meola bailed Gilbert out of a two-out jam in the bottom of the 2nd inning by making an amazing diving catch over the Cowboys' dugout railing on a foul ball from right fielder Carson McCusker.
"Jon Meola diving in the dugout was the greatest baseball play I think I've ever seen live," said Stetson head coach Steve Trimper in the post-game press conference.
OSU stranded two runners on base due to Meola's play, including one on 3rd base.
The only blemish on Gilbert's night was the long ball, as OSU second baseman Andrew Rosa and pinch-hitter Cade Cabbiness took the junior right-hander deep for solo home runs in the 3rd and 7th innings, respectively.
Rosa's homer tied the game at 1, and it was soon after that when Hale made a spectacular two-out diving catch right in front of the brick backstop on a foul ball from Cowboys first baseman Christian Funk, stranding two more runners on base.
Stetson took the lead for good in the top of the 4th after loading the bases. Hale tapped the ball to the shortstop but managed to thwart a double play by beating the throw from 2nd base to 1st base, scoring Wilson from 3rd.
The Hatters would add another run in the 6th and two more in the 8th to close out the scoring, other than the Cowboys plating one in the bottom of the 9th on a RBI double by Rosa off left-handed senior reliever Ben Onyshko.
Gilbert and Onyshko - who pitched the final two innings in relief - combined for 19 strikeouts, the most for Stetson in any regional game since 1996.
The win puts Stetson in Sunday night's regional championship game, slated to start at 7 o'clock. Who they will face depends on the 1 p.m. game in the afternoon. The Hatters will face the winner of OSU and the #2 seed University of South Florida, who eliminated #4 seed Hartford earlier in the day with a 9-4 victory in 11 innings.
A Hatters win on Sunday night makes Stetson the champion of the DeLand Regional. A loss means Stetson would have to win on Monday to clinch the regional title against the same team they will face Sunday night.