Baseball falters against Stetson, rebounds against FAMU, Sav. State


(Alex Lockwood / Cluster Staff) A strong pitching performance from the starting rotation has kept the Bears in tight games despite a recent lack of offense.

(Alex Lockwood / Cluster Staff) A strong pitching performance from the starting rotation has kept the Bears in tight games despite a recent lack of offense.

After a phenomenal opening month to the college baseball season, fans around the A-Sun took notice of the defending conference champs after series wins against Belmont and FGCU. A pair of conference series against #30 Stetson and in-state rival Kennesaw State would soon follow, sandwiched in between two non-conference games against Florida A&M and Savannah State.

But as the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” Mercer stumbled in three one-run contests against the Hatters before dropping another conference game to the Owls in a seven-game stretch they would rather forget. Despite the close losses though, the team remains on track to defending their 2010 title with upcoming series on the road with Campbell and North Florida while hosting Jacksonville to kick off April.

Stetson 4, Mercer 3
The Friday night contest came down to the last out as Hatters’ reliever Robbie Powell made quick work of Blaine Matthews and Billy Burns to keep the Mercer baserunner on third from crossing home plate to tie the game. For the spectators in the stands, it was a thriller that began in the first inning with an RBI single from Thomas Carroll’s bat. Stetson would quickly answer in the bottom half of the first adding their own run to tie the affair.
MU starter Matt McCall would hold Stetson to only one more run in the second inning before getting knocked out of the game in the fifth with two base runners. Stetson’s offense came roaring back to life in the sxith inning with a pair of singles to make the game 4-1, however Mercer would fight back with their own version of ‘small ball’ in the seventh to score two runs. Matthew Black and Billy Burns would tally RBIs, but the Bears would come no closer as Powell would record the save in the ninth to give Stetson the victory.

Stetson 3, Mercer 2
For the second night in a row, the Bears lost a heartbreaker after a solid pitching performance from Brandon Love (7.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 H). Mercer would take the first two runs of the contest in the third and fourth innings, as Evan Boyd would score after a strikeout throw to first in conjunction with a Derrick Workman triple that put senior John Moreland across the plate.
Despite the Bears’ two run lead, Stetson would bounce back in the fourth, adding a run, before a late game surge in the eighth and ninth innings. A pair of singles knocked in runs late for Stetson, ensuring the Saturday win in another classic between the A-Sun’s oldest rivals. Notably, John Moreland would go 2-4 in the contest with a pair of doubles, leading the way for Mercer.

Stetson 3, Mercer 2
Different day, same result. The late meltdown was a hard pill to swallow for the orange and black as the Hatters scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to send Mercer back to Macon empty handed.  Stetson scored the game’s first run in the third on a wild pitch from Justice French and an error to take a 1-0 lead.
Derrick Workman’s double in the eight followed by an RBI groundout by Billy Burns and Evan Boyd’s run after a wild pitch gave Mercer a 2-1 lead. However, Stetson rebounded in resounding fashion in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI triple from Mark Jones to take the final lead of the night, thus giving the Hatter’s the series sweep.

Mercer 9, FAMU 4
Following the Bears’ longest losing streak of the season, the orange and black took out their frustrations on the Rattlers from Tallahassee in a night of career milestones. Billy Burns would record his 50th stolen base of his career as junior Jacob Tanis would tally his 150th RBI in the first inning.
The contest was over after a five run first inning from Mercer courtesy of a pair of hits from Tanis, Travis Benn as well as an RBI groundout from Derrick Workman. FAMU would score two runs in the first two innings and then two in the eighth, but a strong performance from Brandon Barker (2-0) would give him the win as the pitching staff kept the Rattlers at bay for most of the night despite their 13 hits. Jacob Tanis and Austin Barrett would record homeruns in the game while Benn(2-3, 3 RBI) would be the team’s most productive hitter on the night.

Mercer 12, Sav. St. 4
Traveling to Savannah for another game against the Tigers, Mercer broke through in remarkable fashion to record the school’s first win in Savannah since the series between the Tigers and Bears began in 1997. Savannah State would start the scoring in the first frame, but an RBI double from Austin Barrett would tie the game in the second inning. A pair of hits from Thomas Carroll and Jacob Tanis in the top of the third would seal the game, including Carroll’s 200th hit of his career, putting Mercer on top 4-1.
Austin Barrett’s homerun (his second in two games), would help the Bears club away the Tigers. Late game theatrics from the Bears would include a two-RBI triple courtesy of John Moreland in the sixth and a Nate Moorhouse homerun in the seventh inning as Mercer’s pitcher by committee approach kept the game in check.
“Tonight was a good win for us to break the streak we had against those guys and to continue to get back on track offensively,” said head coach Craig Gibson on following the contest.

Kenn. St. 5, Mercer 3
While the Bears may have lost, the highlight of the game was a triple play in the first inning, a first for Mercer baseball in the modern era (1948-present). When Mercer starting pitcher Brandon Love found himself in a jam with the bases loaded and no outs, KSU’s Ronnie Freeman grounded out into the triple play to electrify the crowd.
The Bears’ bats responded in the same fashion in the bottom half of the inning with two-run homerun from Jacob Tanis to give Mercer the 2-0 lead. The margin appeared to be enough for Mercer until Love struggled in the middle of the game. After striking out six batters in a row, a pair of hits and a sacrifice fly would give KSU the lead for the game. The loss marked Mercer’s fifth consecutive conference loss in a row.

Mercer 6, Kenn. St. 4
In a rain shortened contest, Mercer did enough to pick up the win to break their conference losing streak, sending the Owls back to Kennesaw after the third and final game of the series was canceled due to weather. Matt McCall would earn the victory for Mercer after pitching 5.1 innings and giving up four runs on seven hits. KSU would score first, but Mercer responded in the fourth with three runs to give Mercer a 5-4 lead. Derrick Workman (3-5, 1 RBI, 1 R) would lead MU’s offense on the night from the leadoff position as the Bears rebounded at Claude Smith Field.