Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stetson Makes the Underdog Hat Seem Stylish

With its second win as the No. 6 seed in the 2012 A-Sun Softball Championship, Stetson has the opportunity to make championship history.

The Hatters are now one game removed from the championship game, but in 26 seasons a No. 6 seed has never won the A-Sun Championship. Additionally, only twice has a No. 6 seed advanced to the final. In 1990 top-seeded Georgia State defeated No. 6 Samford 2-0, and in 2001 No. 1 seed Florida Atlantic topped No. 6 Troy, 1-0.

Stetson's win also makes the fourth time in championship history that a No. 6 seed has won its first two games. In 1989 Samford’s Bulldogs knocked off Stetson, 2-1, then topped Georgia Southern, 2-1. In 1990 Samford recaptured the magic as the No. 6, again defeating Stetson, 2-1, and blasting Mercer, 10-2. In 1998 the Hatters got in on the action, defeating Georgia State, 2-1 in nine innings and downing Troy, 2-0.

To Stetson Head Coach Frank Griffin, however, seedings are not as big an indicator as some might think.

Well you know, the seed doesn’t matter,” he says. “When you get to the tournament it’s anybody’s game because the conference is so strong. The top six teams are very good. In fact, we have some very good teams that didn’t make this tournament.

“I don’t see the seed is a big issue except No. 1 and No. 2 didn’t play yesterday, and I don’t think necessarily that’s an advantage. We saw a lot of pitching yesterday and they didn’t. If you look at the score today you can say, ‘Yeah coach, maybe you’re right.’”

Stetson’s wins have been contrasting in style, as the Hatters used a single run to defeat USC Upstate and came from behind against Kennesaw State. Trailing 2-1 to the Owls, Stetson banged out four hits and benefited from a throwing error and a wild pitch from KSU in the fourth inning to take a lead that it never relented.

Griffin says a healthier team and valuable contributions from younger players are driving the Hatters to their post-season success.

“We’ve had a lot of adversity as far as injuries are concerned. On paper It didn’t make us look as good as we really are,” he adds. “Sometimes after you get things going you can turn the season around at the end.

“I’m most proud of my freshman and sophomores. You look at the stats. My two pitchers are a freshman and a sophomore. The two home runs that we hit – freshmen. Look at the hits today – sophomores and freshmen. It was really sweet to see these young kids come through like this.”

Stetson now awaits either Jacksonville or top-seeded FGCU. The Hatters split regular season contest with both teams, edging the Eagles 3-2 and losing 0-7 on March 31. Stetson faced JU in the regular season finale, winning 1-0 and losing 3-0 on May 3.

So with the younger players leading the way, what will Griffin do to prepare them for the biggest game of their season?

“We’re going to go and play putt putt. I’m not thinking about tomorrow’s game today.”

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