The Mercer softball team went 1-2 this weekend at home against Florida Gulf Coast. In Saturday’s double-header, the Bears earned a split with the Eagles, but on Sunday, Mercer was unable to overcome a nine-run fifth inning, giving FGCU the 15-7 win at Sikes Field.
In the first game on Saturday, the Bears were able to end a five-game skid in heroic fashion, scoring six runs over the final three innings to take a 7-6 win. FGCU responded in game two with 14 hits and 12 runs to take a 12-5 win.
Heading into the seventh inning of game one, the Bears were able to plate all three of the winning runs with two outs in the inning. After junior McKenzie Woody and freshman Kaytlin Haney each grounded out, senior Sarah Santana began the Bears’ rally in emphatic fashion. Santana took a 1-0 pitch and hit it deep to left center for her fifth homerun of the season.
Following the homerun, the Bears had the bases loaded after three consecutive walks and two pitching changes. Sophomore Molly Garmany fought off several pitches and worked the count 2-2. The next pitch Garmany was able to get a hold of and lined a single down the left field line that scored both Krista Kennedy and Ashton Holt.
Freshman Natalie Shiver blasted her first career homerun to right center, a two-run shot that scored Garmany in the process. Shiver’s breakout performance also went 3-for-3 with a pair of singles and the homerun.
Junior Randi Rea connected for her tenth homerun, a solo shot to lead off the second inning.
Junior Julia Rice picked up her 12th win allowing nine hits and six earned runs in her 12th complete game of the season. Rice leads the team in wins. In game two of the day, Woody led things off as she has become accustomed to doing with a single in the bottom of the first. A sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch put Woody into scoring position and a Sarah Santana single to left center put the Bears up quickly, 1-0. Three batters later and with two runners on, Randi Rea launched her team-leading 11th homerun of the season and second of the day to give the Bears a commanding 4-0 lead after one.
The lead didn’t last for long, however. FGCU scored nine runs off five hits, including back-to-back homeruns in their half of the second. A FGCU grand slam quickly evened the score at 4-4 and was followed by a solo shot off Nidiffer to give the Eagles the lead which the Bears could not renounce the rest of the game.
Junior Kristen Bretscher subbed in for Nidiffer and lasted only three batters before being replaced by sophomore Rachel Hugghins. Hugghins threw a solid rest of the game allowing only four runs the rest of the way for the Bears.
Mercer entered into Sunday’s game in hopes of redemption after the 12-5 deficit, but the Bears instead gave up 15 runs, the most they’ve given up all season.
The fifth inning of the game proved to be the difference as the Black and Orange gave up nine runs.
Rice pitched a solid first four innings as the teams were knotted up at two runs apiece. When Woody scored off a sacrifice fly off the bat of Kennedy, Mercer broke out to a 1-0 lead. Kennedy’s RBI was one of three for her on the day and she now leads the team with 49 on the year.
In the third, FGCU took the lead scoring two runs off two hits giving the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
Ashton Holt guided a single through the right side to score Santana in response to tie the game.
Rice, who had allowed just four hits through the first four innings, seemed to be in control as she retired the first two batters of the fifth in order. However, things would spiral out of control in a hurry for Rice as she issued three walks, four hits and five runs to the next seven FGCU batters to give the Eagles the commanding 7-2 lead.
Rachel Hugghins came in for Rice, but she too couldn’t find her way out of the inning. FGCU’s next batter took Hugghins deep to left field for a three-run homerun to extend the lead to 10-2. An RBI single by the Eagles would be the final run of the inning as FGCU batted around to produce the nine runs off seven hits in the fifth.
In the Bears’ half of the fifth, the Black and Orange showed a little determination by scoring two runs to keep the game going. A Woody triple scored Marissa Botz and a Haney RBI groundout made the score 11-4 going into the sixth inning.
Krista Kennedy nailed a solo homerun to straight away center for her 11th of the campaign to make the score 11-5.
FGCU capitalized in the seventh, adding four more runs to the board. The Bears plated just two runs in their half of the inning to end the game, but the damage had already been done.
Shiver lined her second career homerun in the loss.
The Bears won the first meeting between the two Georgia schools 10-9 back on Feb. 20.Mercer finishes out its non-conference portion of it schedule this Wednesday as Georgia Tech heads to Sikes Field for a 6 p.m. matchup.