Bears protect home field, road struggles remain

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As the 2012 baseball season dwindles to it’s final stretch, Mercer continuously shows strength at home and lackluster performances on the road. The Bears split matches on the road in their mid-week tilts with in-state rivals Georgia Tech and Georgia State. Mercer then came home and nearly swept a conference series against a strong Belmont squad. The Bears would cap their tough stretch losing a solo match at Kennesaw State and two of three at ETSU in Johnson City, Tenn.
Mercer 4, Georgia Tech 6
The Bears were unable to come up with a victory in the seesaw battle with the home-team Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. After holding a 2-0 lead in the top half of the second, the Tech team plated home three of their own to take their first lead of the game. Tying the game in the third, the Bears held onto a 3-3 tie until the bottom half of the fourth. The Yellow Jackets would add two more in the sixth to hold off the late push from the Bears. Mercer used a barrage of pitchers in the eight-man effort.
Mercer 12, Georgia State 5
The Bears continued their Atlanta trip with a seven-run victory over the in-state Panthers from Georgia State. The contest proved to be a hitting clinic with 28 hits combined. Mercer tallied 16 hits scattered between eight batters. Sophomore Nick Backlund led the Bears with his 5-for-6 outburst. The Bears jumped on the Panthers with five runs in the first with patient at-bats and a three-run home run by Logan Gaines.  The Mercer team never looked back as they added four in the fourth and three in the seventh.
Belmont 4, Mercer 7
The Bears used another stellar performance by Nick Backlund and pitcher Brandon Love to take game one of the conference series against the visiting Belmont Bruins. A pair of RBI from each of the six through eight spots of Logan Gaines, Travis Benn and Derrick Workman powered the Mercer offense to its fifth A-Sun victory.
Belmont 4, Mercer 10
Mercer used an astounding bullpen performance which included Morgan Pittman’s five shutout innings of relief to help lift them to a six-run come-from-behind victory. Scoring early, the Bruins plated home four runs in the first as they looked to even the series at one. Jamie McMillan led the charge with an early three-run home run in the bottom half of the first frame. It was all Bears from there. Mercer used an Evan Boyd two-run double and a Nate Moorhouse two-run single to provide the offensive spark.
Belmont 7, Mercer 6
In an attempt to sweep their first conference series of the season, the Bears suffered one of their toughest losses of the year. Leading by as many as five runs, the Bears bullpen collapsed in the late innings in the eventual extra-inning affair. The Bruins posted three runs in the seventh and tied the game with two in the eighth. Mercer made matters worse when they spoiled away bases loaded opportunities in the ninth and 11th. Appropriately enough, the Bruins would proceed in plating home the winning run with small ball in the 13th.
Mercer 1, Kennesaw St. 6
The Bears carried on their inability to manufacture runs from the extra innings of game three against Belmont in the solo game against the Owls of Kennesaw State. Mercer could only muster four hits in the five-run defeat. The Owls used a balance attack of 11 hits from seven players to power them to six runs of offense.
Mercer 3, ETSU 1
Game two of the nine-game road series turned out to be an impressive pitcher’s duel. Starters Brandon Love and Jake Long combined for 14.1 innings of three-run ball. Mercer’s Love outlasted Long with his eight-plus frames. He surrendered just seven hits and one run.  Knotted 1-1 in the sixth, Nate Moorhouse’s RBI groundout proved to be the game-winner. Jamie McMillan added an insurance run with a RBI hit in the following frame.
Mercer 8, ETSU 13
Game two of the three-game set proved polar opposite from that of the first. Game one saw a combined four runs and 15 hits. Game two tallied 21 runs and 27 hits. Leading 6-4 after six, the Bears surrendered four hits, four walks, one hit-by-pitch and seven runs in the decisive seventh inning frame. The teams would trade two runs in the eighth in the eventual five-run ETSU win.
Mercer 2, ETSU 7
In the rubber match of the three-game series, the Bears found themselves on the losing end of a five-run game. Trading runs in the first, the Bears trailed 2-1 in the early going. ETSU would appropriately add one run in the fourth with some small ball and four runs in the seventh with some big ball. In the fourth, the Bucs manufactured a run on a suicide squeeze play. In the seventh, ETSU solidified the win with a grand slam off the bat of Dylan Pratt.
With the recent turn of events, the Bears are 7-11 in conference play. That is good for eighth in the A-Sun with three-game sets against Jacksonville, North Florida and Upstate still remaining.
The Bears play two at Alabama State before completing their final road trip in Jacksonville on April 29. Mercer returns to Claude Smith Field for the final nine games of the season on May 8-19.