Softball streak ends, goes 5-3 in early conference play

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Riding a seven-game win streak, Mercer Softball has erased a slow 0-6 start en route to a potential Atlantic Sun Tournament berth. Kicking off conference play on the road, the Bears hoped to continue their stellar play against the conference-leading S.C. Upstate. Splitting games with Upstate, Jacksonville and North Florida and sweeping on the road against ETSU, the Bears find themselves at 5-3 midway through conference competition.
S.C. Upstate 8, Mercer 7
In a game in which the Bears piled up 13 hits and seven runs, the team fell just short in a one-run loss at the hands of conference foe S.C. Upstate. Trailing 8-3 entering the seventh, the Bears couldn’t complete the comeback effort in their first conference contest of the season.
S.C. Upstate 1, Mercer 4
Facing the 27-4 powerhouse Upstate in the second game of the doubleheader, freshman Jessica Holsinger and the Bears found a way to win in a 4-1 rain-delayed contest. Earning their 20th win of the year, Holsinger also garnered her 10th victory of the season. Senior Sara Stukes’ single in the sixth sparked the Bears as she would come around to score the second run of the game. The eventual decisive blow would be Randi Rae’s two-run home run to extend their lead to 4-0.
ETSU 3, Mercer 4
Continuing their road tests against conference rivals, the Bears were challenged with a Saturday doubleheader against East Tennessee State. In the first game, the Bears trailed by as many as three when they were down 3-0 after one. DeFeo’s squad would mount a comeback off a solo shot by Sara Stukes, a RBI double by Kristin Marko and defensive miscues by the Lady Bucs. The three-run fifth would be more than enough for the Bears as they held onto the 4-3 victory. The win brought Holsinger’s record to a remarkable 11-2.
ETSU 2, Mercer 3
Coming off the one-run thriller in game one, the Bears did much of the same with some late-inning heroics by Jessica Holsinger and Kristin Marko. Marko drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh with a RBI single. Pitching into the seventh inning for the Bears was starter Kassie Bailey. Having allowed just the two runs and with the 3-2 lead, DeFeo made a move as Holsinger would make her second appearance of the day. With runners on second and third and nobody out, Holsinger would walk the tight rope. Inducing a foul and out and walking the following batter, the bases were loaded with one out left to get. The freshman out of Idaho would strike out the next batter before getting the last batter to pop out.
When asked about the early conference play and their impressive stretch of wins, Coach James DeFeo credited his girls for the work they have put in. “We are starting to hit our stride right now. The girls are starting to understand what type of ball we need to play – tough inning-by-inning, pitch-by-pitch. We are playing a lot more consistently,” said DeFeo.
Jacksonville 2, Mercer 6
After dropping their first conference match against Upstate, the Bears were looking for their fourth-consecutive conference win with a victory over Jacksonville in their home doubleheader. The Bears did just that as another come-from-behind win against the visiting Dolphins. Down 2-0 after a JU home run, the Bears answered right back with a RBI hit from Caitlin Peisel and a two-run blast from Krista Kennedy. The home run was the Bears’ first of the year at home this season. With the 3-2 lead, the Bears would never look back as they would add three more between the fifth and sixth innings. The win slots the Bears a season-best nine-over .500 with a 23-14 record.
Jacksonville 3, Mercer 0
In the back end of the doubleheader, the Bears were unable to capitalize on the opportunities at-hand and were shut out for the first time since March 6. Pitching with a little wildness, Holsinger made only one mistake in the game that resulted in the three runs and her third loss of the season. JU’s Amanda Schmidt connected on a three-run home run in the third inning to put the only runs of the game on the board. Although the Bears outhit the Dolphins 7-4, JU’s Brittany Eppley dazzled with her own complete game shutout. Mercer had an opportunity to win in the seventh with two runners on base and only one out. Freshman sensation McKenzie Woody would strike out before Marko’s eventual game-ending ground out.
North Florida 2, Mercer 3
Following a similar trend, the Bears would once again win game one of the weekend doubleheader behind the arm and bat of Kassie Bailey. In a game that saw both defenses kick the ball around to give one another two runs on the board, the game was deadlocked 2-2 in the seventh. With two down and the bases full of Mercer runners, Bailey would help herself out by depositing a UNF pitch over the shortstop’s head for the walk-off victory. In the game, Caitlin Peisel stayed hot with a 3-for-3 in the box score. She has nine hits in her last four games. She has raised her batting average from .217 to .328.
North Florida 2, Mercer 1
With a tough 2-1 loss against UNF, the Bears split a doubleheader for the ninth time this season. It marks the ninth time in which the Bears have been unable to win the second game of a back-to-back. Down 2-0 for the bulk of the game, UNF would help plate a runner home for the Bears with a bases loaded hit-by-pitch in the fifth. Down 2-1 with Woody as the potential tying run on second, the Bears were unable to score. With Peisel and Bailey listed to hit, Woody on second and only one out, the Bears had the piece