In the six weeks since USC Upstate senior Brandon Lee helped the Spartans to an 8-6 victory over Stetson in Spartanburg, he had been winless in four starts with three consecutive losses.
On Thursday in an elimination game at the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, Lee silenced the Hatters to snap his losing skid and end the Hatters’ season by blanking Stetson 6-0.
The Hatters (26-31) managed just three hits and four base runners in the game against Lee (7-6), who needed just 114 pitches in the complete game effort.
“We loaded up the lineup with left-hander because that has caused Lee problems this year,” Stetson coach Pete Dunn said. “I don’t understand how left-handers were hitting so well after what he did to our guys today. They played us exactly where they pitched. They threw a lot of off speed stuff to our left-handers trying to make us pull the ball, and that is what we did.
“If he hadn’t had such good command of the zone, then we might have been able to hit the ball up the middle. But, he pitched so that we hit the ball right into the teeth of their defense.”
A perfect illustration of that fact was the eight assists and two put outs recorded by Spartans (27-29) second baseman Daniel Seeba.
The Spartans generated all the offense they needed in the very first inning off Stetson sophomore starter Josh Powers (1-8). Gaither Bumgardner delivered a one-out single, advanced on a hit by Luke Weber and then scored on a two-out single by Tyler Lesch.
Powers surrendered another run in the fourth on a two-out single by Tyler Miller to score Seeba, who had walked.
Powers left the game in the eighth inning after allowing those two runs on 10 hits.
“He wasn’t real sharp, but he gutted it out,” Dunn said. “He got behind in the count a lot, and was up early, but he is going to grind it out. Even at 2-0, we were still in the game. All of a sudden the roof caved in and they scored four.”
The four runs the Spartans scored came in the ninth inning on five hits, including three straight off Stetson senior Joe Dye, who was making his 100th career appearance for the Hatters. Weber’s two-run double was the only extra-base hit among the 15 piled up by Upstate. Brody Greer and Seeba both added run-scoring hits.
“Any time the season comes to an end it is always disappointing to say goodbye to the senior,” Dunn said. “Joe Dye is a guy who was almost cut five years ago. He changed his arm slot and did anything he could do to make a contribution.”
“Ras is a guy who was a backup until this year and had to play through a lot of injuries,” Dunn said. “Mitchel Brennan had a lot of key hits for us in his career and Rood came in this year and did whatever we asked him to do. It was probably unfair to him to put him into some of the situations we put him in, be needed him to step up and he gutted it out, even though he was hurt all year.”
For the Spartans, the 2013 season continues for at least one more game. Upstate will face the loser of tonight’s game between top-seeded Mercer and No. 4 seed East Tennessee State on Friday in a scheduled 1:15 p.m. start.