As of Feb. 21, the Mercer Bears softball team sits at .600 on the season. Their 6-4 record includes sweeps of Radford, Oakland and Charleston Southern and a sweep by Georgia Southern. Their home opener against Alcorn State was cancelled.
The Mercer softball team headed to Statesboro for the two-day Spring Hill Suites Eagle Classic. The four games tested a Bears squad that was looking to start off on the right foot this season after a disappointing 2010 campaign. Radford was nationally ranked in the preseason polls before this tournament. In an ironic twist, Mercer swept Radford, Radford swept Georgia Southern, and the Eagles swept Mercer. All teams thereby went 2-2.
Mercer 6, Radford 4
A four-run fifth inning was enough, despite a late rally from Radford, for the Mercer Bears softball team to record their fourth opening day win in the past five seasons. The 6-to-4 victory was punctuated with Kari Chambers pitching a complete game victory in the opener, including locking down on the Radford offense. However, freshman McKenzie Woody got a single in her first ever at-bat, and would eventually round the bases at the top of the first after a steal put her into scoring position.
GSU 7, Mercer 5
The success would be short-lived as Mercer would not be able to catch the high-flying Eagles of Georgia Southern. On the back of senior Megen Smith, recently named the preseason player of the year for the Southern Conference, Georgia Southern forced Mercer’s ace Jenni Holtz out early. Holtz gave up three runs in 1.1 innings. JUCO transfer Kassie Bailey pitched well, but a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth stunned the Bears. Mercer would eventually fight back and pull within one, but a late run by the Eagles ended any hope for a rally.
Mercer 4, Radford 3
Jenni Holtz pitched six scoreless innings, and Mercer’s slow buildup gave them another victory over Radford at the Eagle Classic. Kristen Marko and Sara Stukes both had RBIs in the narrow victory. However, Holtz’s collapse in the seventh almost cost them the game. Senior Anna Johnson reached on an error, stole second base, and on the throw to pick her off, she advanced to home in the bottom of the seventh.
GSU 3, Mercer 2
Mercer once again fell behind early, and Kari Chambers performed well after a shaky start, but the Bears could not rally to get back in the game. They were held to just three hits in the game.
After going 2-2 in Statesboro, Mercer headed to Charleston Southern for their Buccaneer Invite. After a tough opening weekend, the Bears looked to perform well against some big-name schools.
Ohio 2, Mercer 0
Kari Chambers struck out thirteen batters and allowed just two runs in her complete game loss. The Bears had no answer for Ohio’s talented pitching staff.
Mercer 5, Char. So. 0.
Mercer won a game that took place over two days due to a darkness delay in impressive fashion. Jenni Holtz struck out eleven, and she became the first Bear to pass 800 strikeouts in their career. The complete game shutout saw a good rebound for the Bears’ bats after being shutout earlier in the tournament.
Virginia Tech 8, Mercer 0
After a pitching duel took place over the first four innings, the Virginia Tech Hokies scored eight in the fifth and sixth innings, putting Mercer to the run rule. Holtz looked tired after four, having pitched just prior to this game in the shutout of Charleston Southern. She was pulled out, and the Hokies’ bats exploded.
Mercer 5, Char. So. 1
In the consolation game, Mercer made sure they broke even for the tournament. Anna Johnson registered her seventh steal of the season, and McKenzie Woody got two more. Krista Kennedy’s opening home run helped inspire the Bears to a victory that was needed after the demoralizing defeat against Virginia Tech.
After another .500 performance, the Mercer Bears headed home for a doubleheader against Oakland. The Grizzlies faced Mercer and the Bears were victorious in both games.
Mercer 6, Oakland 1
Erin Galloway went 3 for 3 from the plate and the Mercer Bears won their first home game of the 2011 season. A slow buildup saw a run added in the each of the first three innings, and it was capitalized with a three-run outburst in the fifth. Two home runs helped put the game away.
Mercer 8, Oakland 0
The Bears completely shut down the Grizzlies in the second game of the doubleheader. A game shortened to six innings saw Mercer’s softball team showcase its depth.