The Florida Southern College Moccasins (33-17) had a big seven-run inning to catapult their way to an 8-4 win over the Statesmen. The Statesmen, now 38-12, will play Tampa today at 2 p.m. CST. Tampa, 48-2, defeated Stillman 3-2 earlier in the day.
Delta State head baseball coach Mike Kinnison knows its gut check time for his team.
“Each guy has to examine his heart and dig down a little bit,” Kinnison said. “For some of these guys it could be the last game of their career. It’s no easy task. You’re playing a 48 and 2 Tampa team, ranked number one in the nation. So, we certainly have a tall order. But that’s what I want to base our program on is opportunity to play in the best arena possible against the best competition possible. Tonight, we just didn’t handle it.”
Trailing 2-0 heading into the top of the sixth, Florida Southern busted out of its slump against DSU starter Michael Manley. Chris Dennis drew a walk, Dominic Brugnoni was hit by a pitch and Joey Miller drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. The next batter, Scottie Withrow, roped a single to score Dennis for Florida Southern’s first run of the inning.
Kinnison came out to the mound to pull Manley and replace him with reliever Nick Goza. Goza didn’t fare much better. Kyle Richards reached base on a fielder’s choice to drive in Brugnoni for the second run of the inning. After Goza struck out the next batter, Keith Curcio drilled a three-run triple. Trey Vavra tagged a RBI-single and ended up scoring the seventh run on a wild pitch after Brugnoni struck out to make the score 7-2.
The Statesmen never could catch up as a run in the sixth and a run in the seventh would be their last bit of offense. The Moccasins were able to score one more run in the top of the eighth off a RBI-double from Vavra.
“A few times we clawed back into the game and got a run on the board,” Kinnison said. “We cut it to three after a disastrous seven-run inning. At this level of competition, at this level of play, a seven-run inning is so hard to overcome, so hard to overcome when you’re facing really good pitching and a quality, you know, mound crew from the other team.
“We got back in it a few times and then we gave a run back up and I didn’t think our bullpen really came in and just silenced things. Not a good night for us. We’re disappointed. We really feel badly about the fact that we didn’t get things put together and didn’t get the first win. So all we can do now is come back and win tomorrow.”
Manley (8-3) suffered the loss for DSU as he gave up four runs on six hits with two walks, a hit batter and two strikeouts in five innings of work. The five-inning outing was Manley’s shortest of the season. Goza ended up surrendering four runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts in two innings of work. Trevor Blocker pitched the last two innings for DSU as he gave up one hit and one walk with out surrendering a run.
“They (Florida Southern) did find the holes, but our pitching was really bad,” Kinnison said. “I thought Mike Manley threw the worst game that he’s thrown in his career here. Certainly, no lack of effort. That’s not what he wanted to happen, but he had basically very, very little and was very flat. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the layoff from competitive pitching. We’ve continued to throw bullpens, and we’ve continued to try and simulate games. We’re only talking about a little more than a week since we played last, nine days, but it sure looked like the layoff was really tough.”
Ben Richardson ended up getting the win for Florida Southern as he gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts in six innings of work. Casey Eskew and Nate Carter combined for three shutout innings out of the bullpen for the Moccasins.
At the plate for DSU, Carlos Leal drilled two hits and drove in a run, and Will Robertson tagged two hits to lead the way.
At the plate for Florida Southern, Whithrow drilled three hits to lead the Moccasins, followed by Vavra with two hits and two RBIs, Dennis with two his and a run, Richards with two hits, a RBI and a run and Curcio with a triple, three RBIs and two runs scored.
DSU will look to reverse its fortunes today, as Jonathan Moody will take the mound against Tampa.
“We have to have a good start from Jonathan Moody,” Kinnison said. “The ball will be given to him. He’s going to have to answer for us tomorrow, and he’s going to have to pitch well for us. He’s done that at times this year. He’s got a tough challenge, a tough ball club he’s facing tomorrow. Good pitchers, when your team plays poorly, can step in and pick them up the next day.”
The winner of the DSU-Tampa game will take on the winner of the Florida Southern-Alabama-Huntsville game on Saturday at 10 a.m. CST. The FSC-UAH game tonight will begin at 6 p.m. CST.