The Hatters are off to a 9-2 start and haven’t yet been at full strength.

DAYTONA BEACH — Chris Gonzalez couldn’t quite put his finger on what went wrong last Friday against the University of Maryland Baltimore County.


The lefty got hammered in a way he hadn’t before, giving up seven hits, seven runs, and hitting a batter before getting pulled just one out into the second inning.


Despite a furious rally, the Hatters would end up losing, 9-8, for just the second time all season.


“I just had no trust in my stuff,” said Gonzalez, the team’s MVP from last season and the opening night starter this year. “I had to get back to the basics … finding my arm slot again, find my off-speed pitches, and then just trusting what the catcher calls and executing a game plan.”


Safe to say Gonzalez’s trust issues are a thing of the past.


The junior rebounded exactly how head coach Steve Trimper had hoped Wednesday night against Bethune-Cookman, striking out a career-high 13 in a complete game 5-0 shutout.


Gonzalez allowed just three hits, four baserunners, and set down 17 straight batters at one point before giving up a two-out double in the ninth.


It was Gonzalez’s best performance since last May, when he pitched all 11 innings in an ASUN tournament win over Jacksonville.


“Chris pitches to location,” Trimper said. “Last week, he didn’t have that location, and it was one of the very few times he didn’t. I’ll take 20 starts and one bad one every time, though.”


If that was Gonzalez’s one dud this year, the Hatters (9-2) will be in good shape.


Stetson has been without weekend starter Daniel Paret all season due to tendinitis, forcing Gonzalez to start Friday night’s instead of his usual mid-week spot. On the surface, those weekend games may appear more important, especially with conference play set to begin later this month.


If Stetson wants to host another regional tournament, however, winning on Tuesday and Wednesday is critical.


“It’s where we have to make some hay if we’re going to think about our RPI,” Trimper said. RPI (Rating Percentage Index) ranks teams based on wins and losses and strength of schedule. When the Hatters hosted a regional in 2018, their RPI was 12th in the country,


“You don’t want to think too far in the future, but you want your team to understand the importance of every game,” Trimper added.


Fortunately, Paret, who became just the 12th freshman in program history last season to record 100 strikeouts, is set to make his debut this Saturday against Fairfield. The move allows Gonzalez to slide back into the important mid-week role, and then come out of the bullpen on weekends.


With Robbie Peto, who ranks 17th in the country with 30 strikeouts, set to take over Friday night duties, Paret back for Saturdays, and freshman Nick Durgin (3-0, 0.89 ERA) locked into the Sunday role, Stetson’s rotation appears to finally be at full strength.


And with mid-week games against Florida, South Florida, UCF and Florida State still looming, getting all those pieces into place could be the difference come May.


“I guess I bring some more experience,” said Gonzalez. “With some of those bigger teams like Florida and Florida State coming in, the coaches feel like I give them the best shot. It also lets me relieve on the weekend, and we don’t have a lefty reliever.


“We’re playing well right now. We’re pitching well and the bats are alive. Everything is clicking.”