Coming off a stretch that saw the Bears win 13 of 16 between March 14 and April 7, the Bears’ season has unraveled in the wrong direction as they have lost both ace pitcher Jessica Holsinger and nine games in a row. All nine contests were in conference as well. The Bears slid from the top-seeded 4-1 record in the A-Sun to their current 5-11 disappointment.
Mercer 3, Stetson 6
Beginning their four-game road stint against conference foes Stetson and FGCU, the Bears were in search for consistency in the circle and at the plate. Jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first, the Hatters responded with six runs in the first two innings to squash any hope of a Mercer victory. The Bears added two runs with back-to-back homers in the fifth before being silenced by Stetson reliever Meredith Owen.
Mercer 4, Stetson 6
The Bears found themselves in a similar situation with a 6-1 deficit in the second inning of game two. Owens held the Bears off the scoreboard until the sixth where Mercer fell just short of completing a comeback. Senior Kerri Nidiffer pitched an impressive four-plus innings while allowing only one run.
Mercer 1, FGCU 9
The Bears continued their current slide when they traveled to Fort Myers to take on the FGCU Eagles. Knotted 1-1 after three, the Eagles strung together a flurry of hits en route to their eight runs in two innings. The five-run bottom half of the fifth put an end to the run-ruled pounding. Nine different Eagle players recorded hits in the contest.
Mercer 2, FGCU 10
The Eagles put on an encore performance in game two of the doubleheader with six runs in the third and four runs in the fifth. Mercer continued its trend of scoring early with two runs in the second. On that same token, the Bears proved to struggle in the latter innings as three errors and seven FGCU hits plated home 10 runs in five frames.
Belmont 4, Mercer 3
Coming back home for four games against the Bruins and Bison of Tennessee, the Bears suffered two heartbreaking losses at the hands of the then 9-29 Bruins. In game one, Mercer jumped out in front 3-1 after four innings. The Bruins would mount a comeback in the sixth frame with three runs of their own. In the game, Belmont, batting just .210 on the season, manufactured only two hits. Mercer’s two errors led to two unearned runs that proved to be the difference in the final outcome.
Belmont 7, Mercer 6
Game two proved to be just as painful as the Bruins jumped out to a commanding 6-0 lead. The Bears pulled within two after a Lilli Luke solo shot and a Caitlin Peisel sacrifice fly in the sixth. Belmont added an insurance run with a solo blast of its own in the top half of the seventh. Mercer continued to fight as Molly Garmany and Luke began the last frame with back-to-back hits. With no one out, Tiffany Phillips belted a ball to the fence in right center. Belmont’s Heather Turner made a stellar defensive catch up against the wall that proved to be the play of the game. As it was, the runners advanced a bag apiece as the score stood 7-5. Sara Stukes would ground out for out number two to pull within one. Peisel’s soaring fly ball to the warning track brought gasps to the hopeful Mercer crowd as the Belmont outfielder corralled the final out.
Lipscomb 8, Mercer 2
Nine hits and two runs wasn’t enough for the Bears to snap their seven-game losing streak. Mercer left 12 runners on base and made three errors in the six-run loss. DeFeo’s bunch scattered nine hits from nine different players in the balanced offensive attack. Meanwhile, the Bison had three players tally three hits in the 16-hit parade. Lipscomb’s Whitney Kiihnl recorded her 20th victory from the circle.
Lipscomb 5, Mercer 2
With the season slipping away from the Bears, they looked to avoid their ninth consecutive loss in A-Sun play. Lipscomb’s 10 hits from seven players silenced the Mercer squad. Having a commanding 5-1 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Bison didn’t break a sweat in their eighth A-Sun victory of the season. The offensive struggles continued as the game marked the ninth time in 11 games where the Bears scored three runs or less.
In the current nine-game losing streak, the Bears pitching staff has given up eight hits or more six times. They have also given up six runs or more in six of the nine matches. During that span, Mercer has been outscored 57 to 24.
After a start to the season that saw the Bears begin 0-6 and then an impressive stretch of games that brought the team to a season-best 24-15, Mercer finds themselves sitting at .500 for the first time since March 17.
Head Coach James DeFeo shared his thoughts on the recent turn of events in the season: “After the first few series of A-Sun Conference play, we were playing very well and sat on top of the standings. Jess went down and had some other injuries to key players and we lost some close games,” he said. “We are rallying as a team and look to finish out the season strong,” added the first year head coach.
The Bears have only Kennesaw State left on the schedule for conference play. They play them in a road doubleheader on April 28.
Between games on Saturday, April 21, Mercer fans and players alike took time to pay tribute to the talented graduating class in their final home game of the year. Seniors Sara Stukes, Tiffany Phillips, Kassie Bailey, Lilli Luke, Caitlin Peisel and Kristin Marko were honored in the ceremony.