Softball kicks off season with a tournament win

Mercer Athletics
Mercer Athletics

Mercer’s softball team opened up their season on Feb. 7, where they hosted the Mercer Invitational to collect several wins and capture the championship title.

After losing the first game in a 9-8 battle against the Samford Bulldogs, the Bears dominated four consecutive games and climbed their way back to the top to face the Bulldogs once again in the championship game.

With superior pitching and hitting, Mercer controlled the field and took the 5-1 victory.

Bears pitcher Anna O’neill went all 7.0 innings against Samford, only giving up three hits and one run, while striking out one and walking a pair. Overall, O’neill recorded 15.0 innings of play and gave up just one run during the entire tournament.

“Being a freshman pitcher, I feel like my role is to do my best on the mound to prove to my teammates and coaches that I want to do whatever it takes to get to the conference tournament,” said O’neill. “I am honored to be a part of this program. We have three amazing coaches that I am more than thankful to have that have made me such a better player since when I first came in the fall.”

Taylor Miller led off the rally against Samford, hitting a single to left field. After she stole second base, McKenzie Woody came through and knocked a triple between the gap in right center to send Miller home and give Mercer a 1-0 advantage. The Bears doubled the score soon after when Kaytlin Haney grounded out to bring Woody home for a 2-0 lead.

With two outs and the bases empty in the sixth inning, Rachel Hugghins accepted a walk and Riley Carter saw her first action of the game where she followed up with her second home run of the tournament to send the Bears into a 4-0 advantage over Samford.

Mercer loaded the bases later in the inning, where Molly Garmany would be walked to bring home another run and make the score 5-0.

Samford’s only score came in the bottom of the sixth inning when a home run was hit straight away center to make it 5-1.

O’Neill ended any chance of a Bulldog comeback by putting down three consecutive batters in the seventh inning to send the Bears to their fourth-straight victory and the Mercer Invitational Tournament Championship.

The team and fans alike are proud of the Bear’s performance thus far in the season. Mercer fan Gary Anderson said, “I’m already so impressed with the girls’ performance. I’m not surprised by their play, but it’s great that they’re already doing so well. I would be here to support them either way though.”

On Feb. 15, Mercer gained two more wins in a doubleheader against Furman to give them a 6-1 record.

During game one, O’neill threw her second shutout of the season, allowing only two hits and one walk, while striking out nine to improve to 3-0 on the year.

Senior McKenzie Woody got on base all four times she went to bat, going 2-2 with a pair of walks and adding two steals and a run scored.

In the second game against Furman, Carter picked up on the mound where O’Neill left off.  The Bears put up five runs in the fourth inning to send Furman home without a single run.

Carter racked up six strikeouts in 4.1 innings of work. She allowed five base-runners for the second straight outing while also keeping the opponents from crossing home plate.

Mercer totaled 16 hits and 12 runs on the day while sending Furman home with zero runs and only four hits total.

“Our goal this season is simply to win the ring. However, to get there we have to stay focused and achieve each goal as we reach them,” O’neill said. “Overall, I believe we have what it takes to make the conference tournament and win it all. It will take a lot of determination, but the vibe from the upperclassmen is that this is our year, and we have all the tools we need to accomplish our end goal.”

The Bears will continue play at home on Feb. 28 when they kick off the Mercer Bear Classic against Marist at 3:30 p.m.