It took them a while to break .500 in conference play, but Mercer’s baseball team seems to have broken through against A-Sun opponents after a three-game series sweep against Lipscomb this past weekend. Despite the big wins and their overall record that approaches nearly 30 wins on the season, the Bears still find themselves in a log jam to get into the postseason tournament. As of Sunday, Mercer looked to be the eighth seed if the regular season had ended.
There’s good news, though, for head coach Craig Gibson and his talented squad. The schedule seems to soften a bit with away games against Winthrop, USC-Upstate and Georgia before their final home stand against Georgia State and ETSU.
Mercer 8, Savannah State 4
The Bears snapped a three-game losing streak against the Tigers in a single game of non-conference action, with reliever Jacob Matthews picking up the victory. Both teams generated most of their offense early in the game, and Mercer’s three-run inning in the bottom of the fifth would seal the fate of the contest. A wild pitch, sacrifice fly from John Moreland and an RBI double from freshman second baseman DJ Johnson would give Mercer the 6-3 going into the sixth inning.
Thomas Carroll would post another home run on the board early in the game but the key player of this game was Johnson, who pitched the final three innings to pick up the save while going 3-for-4 with an RBI from the plate.
North Florida 7, Mercer 5
The Bears fell to the Ospreys for their fourth consecutive conference loss in the first of a three-game series in Jacksonville. Mercer started out strong with a home run from Jacob Tanis in the top of the first. His 41st career shot gave Mercer the early 2-0 lead, but a pair of hits in the bottom half of the inning doomed the orange and black and gave UNF a 3-2 lead.
Mercer starter Brandon Love would settle in until the fifth inning when he would give up a solo home run, but the Bears’ offense remained nonexistent until the eighth inning when Austin Barrett would put a three-run homer over the fence in left-center field. UNF’s stout pitching late in the game would hold Mercer’s offense at bay to give the Ospreys their 11th conference win of the year.
Mercer 11, North Florida 6
It was a home run derby for the Bears as they broke their conference losing streak with a five-run win during the first game of a Saturday afternoon doubleheader. The fireworks started in the first inning when Jacob Tanis, John Moreland and Billy Burns all took round-trips to give MU the 5-0 lead. UNF’s own five-run outburst in the second inning would reel Mercer’s lead back in, but in the fifth inning Tanis and Joe Winker would crush the leather once again to give MU a commanding lead.
Pitcher J.T. Odom would pick up the win in seven innings of relief, the longest of his career. Jacob Tanis would lead the Bears on the day, with a 3-for-5 performance at the plate along with four RBI and two HRs.
North Florida 5, Mercer 0
It took two thirds of the season for it to come, but the Bears’ offense was finally shut out by an opposing team. UNF freshman pitcher Tyler Moore threw a gem in his complete game shutout, giving up eight hits but no runs over the course of the nine innings. The Ospreys broke up the tied ballgame in the fifth inning with a pair of RBI hits and two errors to give UNF the 2-0 lead. They would add two more runs in the sixth and one in the seventh to give Justice French his first loss of the season.
Mercer 6, #9 Ga. Tech 3
Lightning usually doesn’t strike the same place twice, unless you happen to be a good baseball team. Hosting the nationally ranked Yellow Jackets at home, Mercer picked up a huge win against the ACC team to give them their second win over a ranked opponent this year. A two-RBI double from John Moreland pushed Mercer’s lead to 3-0 early in the first inning while starter Matt McCall allowed only three hits in his three predetermined innings.
Reliever David Teasley worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning to preserve Mercer’s lead as a pair of doubles in the fifth inning would extend that lead to 6-2. Stellar pitching down the stretch from the arms of Russell Moses, J.T. Odom and DJ Johnson would preserve Mercer’s biggest home win of the 2011 campaign.
Mercer 10, Lipscomb 2
Craig Gibson got plenty of mileage out of junior Brandon Love’s arm as he went seven innings against the Bison, limiting the side to five hits and only one earned run. The offense, in turn, came through to support Love with plenty of force, including round-trippers for John Moreland, Thomas Carroll and Billy Burns. Reliever J.T. Odom’s late-game appearance marked his 96th outing of his career, moving him into 96th all-time in A-Sun history.
Mercer 6, Lipscomb 4
The bases were loaded in the top of the ninth with no outs, but J.T. Odom worked flawlessly with his side-armed delivery to give the Bears their second straight conference win against the Bison. Mercer’s three-run effort in the sixth inning would put them out in front late in the game, but Lipscomb came roaring back with a two-run home run in the top of the seventh.
MU’s pitching staff prevailed, though, as DJ Johnson would earn his first win of the season after pitching 2.1 innings late while teammates John Moreland (2-3, 1 RBI) and Billy Burns (2-4, 1 RBI) would help lead the batting order on the day.
Mercer 12, Lipscomb 2
Senior Justice French had another strong outing as third baseman Jacob Tanis blasted two more home runs into the stratosphere, giving MU the series sweep. Tanis’s grand slam in the seventh put the game out of reach as the junior continues to break school records and move up the A-Sun’s all-time list of home run hitters. Six runs in the first three innings made it a short day for LU starter Chris Nunn, but it was the dominant performance from French (6.2 IP, 8 H, 1 ER) that gave Mercer the win in their 43rd game of the season.