In eight years, Stetson Hatters baseball has made only two NCAA Regional appearances, in 2011 and 2016.
In between those years, the team has mostly sat in the middle levels of the Atlantic Sun Conference. With Florida Gulf Coast Universiy and Kennesaw State University just a sample of those teams taking up all the recent conference tournament glory, the Hatters have struggled to make it back to the regional, where they were once a staple in the early 2000s.
This year, it looks like the tide is turning.
Stetson has gone 37-11 so far in 2018, is ranked in several polls and is rocking the best RPI out of all mid-majors at No. 11. After his first year, Hatters head coach Steve Trimper has created a potential dark horse in whatever regional his team may appear in.
Outfielders Jacob Koos and Andrew MacNeil have been two of the main two batters leading the charge for the Hatters.
Koos has cooled down after batting over .300 for the middle part of the season, but is still batting .272 with three home runs and 22 RBIs. MacNeil has a .288 average with two home runs and 22 RBIs.
Those two are just part of the contribution the team has received this year. Six players have 20 or more RBIs and eight players have two home runs or more.
That type of scoring depth can only help them late in the season when your usual performers can often struggle.
As for pitching, all four main starters have an ERA under three. As a team, the Hatters are second in Division I to Stanford with a 2.64 ERA.
Joey Gonzalez leads the team with a 1.76 ERA and a 7-3 record. Gonzalez gave up only one earned run in his first six appearances, but has given up at least two earned runs in five of his past six appearances.
Nationally, Hatters staff ranks:
#2 w/ 8 shutouts
Team OBA a sick .202
— Stu Murray (@Stu_Murray1) May 8, 2018
Logan Gilbert and Jack Perkins are tied for the team win lead with eight each, but Perkins as two losses to Gilbert’s single loss. Gilbert has struck out 121 and is second in the nation to Kyle Brnovich of Elon, who has 124.
Look for the pair to duel it out for the strikeout crown in their last few respective appearances.
Trimper said to the Daytona Beach News-Journal that Gilbert has attracted plenty of attention, including nearly 20 major league scouts for his bullpen sessions this year.
“You wouldn’t recognize if this guy was your superstar or if he was the 35th man on the team; he just goes about his business,” Trimper said. “He’s very well-grounded. … He’s not taking this like it’s an easy step.”
Closer Brooks Wilson will only serve to help the Hatters in the late goings, with a 1.70 ERA and 17 saves. What makes his pitching line more impressive is that he’s also hitting .268 with two home runs and 22 RBIs.
Calling him the DeLand Shohei Ohtani may not be as crazy an exaggeration as one would think. Guess there is a reason the Texas Rangers drafted him in the 24th round of the MLB Draft last year.
Stetson has to face off against Jacksonville and other strong conference competition to get an automatic bid in the ASun Tournament. If they don’t win that, there is still a strong possibility they make it through with an at-large bid.
They could get swept in regional play, lose in the final game or move on to the super regionals. Regardless, that kind of success could help Trimper recruit against bigger programs in a packed Florida recruiting scene.
Trimper has the vision to be successful among the best teams in Florida. He explained it best during his first press conference as coach in 2016.
“When I look at that field and this school, I see the energy and vision to host regionals, to have that place packed every night,” he said. “Winning all those games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to be the best in the state, and there is some great baseball in this state, but small minds can’t understand big dreams. I am not going to come in here and think small. I am going to think as big as we can.”
Stetson has started taking those steps and winning those Florida weekday games. From where they sit now, they have the potential to start working toward that dream.