DeLand, FL -
Despite having one of the best records in the country entering this weekend's NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament, there was a lot of doubt from experts and fans alike about Stetson University.
Sure, the Hatters' pitching staff has been great all season. But with a team batting average barely over .250 for the year and averaging just under six runs a game, could the #11 overall seed find enough offense to win its first-ever home regional?
We now know the answer to that. It's an emphatic "yes".
Stetson (48-11) put up 10 runs in the bottom of the 3rd inning, breaking a scoreless tie to blow #3 regional seed Oklahoma State University (31-26-1) away for the second day in a row, this time by a final score of 11-1, winning the DeLand Regional and the program's first-ever Super Regional berth.
As it turned out, tonight's game is the final one of the year at the friendly confines for Stetson, as #6 overall seed University of North Carolina won its home regional. It means the Hatters will play against the Tar Heels next weekend in Chapel Hill for a berth to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
But it turned out to be quite a way to end the home games for head coach Steve Trimper's ballclub, notching its 18th consecutive win, a new program record.
The 10-run 3rd inning is not only the most the Hatters have scored in a single inning all season, but the most in a single inning since scoring 12 in an April 12, 2005 game against Volusia County rival Bethune-Cookman.
It was a breakout performance so unexpected and overwhelming that most of the announced crowd of 1,607 at Melching Field gave the Hatters a standing ovation after designated hitter Brooks Wilson struck out to end the inning.
14 batters came up that inning for Stetson, starting with second baseman Kyle Ball's single to right field, the first of seven hits for the Hatters in that frame.
Left fielder Andrew MacNeil then drew a walk, setting the stage for right fielder Mike Spooner to break the tie with a single to center field, scoring Ball from 2nd base.
Center fielder Jacob Koos followed with a single of his own between 1st base and 2nd base, plating MacNeil from 2nd base. Wilson - voted the most outstanding player of the regional by the media - then blasted a double to the left center field gap, scoring Spooner and Koos.
First baseman Eric Foggo's single put runners at the corners, ending the night for Cowboys' left-handed starting pitcher Brady Basso. But fellow sophomore Ben Leeper would fare no better once he came in from the bullpen.
Shortstop Jorge Arenas' walk loaded the bases for third baseman Jon Meola, who ripped a single to right field, scoring Wilson from 3rd base to make it 5-0.
Catcher Austin Hale's grounder to OSU third baseman Michael Neustifter appeared to be the first out of the inning, but the throw to 1st base was off-line. Foggo and Arenas scored off the error and Meola ended up at 3rd base. Meola would make the score 8-0 on a wild pitch from Leeper, ending his night.
Fellow right-handed sophomore pitcher Peyton Battenfield came in and finally got the first two outs of the inning after walking Ball by striking out MacNeil and inducing a grounder from Spooner.
Koos ended the scoring in the bottom of the 3rd with a two-out double to right center, scoring Hale from 3rd base and Ball from 2nd base.
The amazing offensive outburst was more than enough for Stetson starting pitcher Jack Perkins. The junior right-hander threw a three-hit complete game with 13 strikeouts, falling one out short of the first complete game shutout of his collegiate career.
OSU left fielder Jon Littell stroked a two-out single to center field in the top of the 9th inning to erase the shutout, scoring pinch-runner Max Hewitt from 2nd base.
Stetson's final run came in the bottom of the 4th inning when Hale's sacrifice fly to center scored Arenas from 3rd base.
After the game was over, Pierson native and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Chipper Jones took to Twitter to show his support. Jones' dad, Larry, was a long-time assistant coach at Stetson under then-head coach Pete Dunn.