The Mercer Men’s Baseball team looks to have yet another successful season this year as they kick it off next weekend against Ohio State at the Snowbird Baseball Classic in Sarasota, Fla. on Feb. 15.
After a disappointing loss in the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship last year, the Bears are coming back with a strong veteran team to get the title. In the 2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Preseason Coaches’ poll, Mercer was picked to finish tied for first.
“We are a really good team that is loaded with talent,” said David Teasley, senior pitcher for the Bears. “As long as we play up to our caliber all season, there is no reason that we shouldn’t justify this preseason honor and bring another championship back to Mercer.”
The Bears also had four players named to the A-Sun Preseason All-Conference team. Senior shortstop Evan Boyd, junior designated hitter Nick Backlund and outfielder Derrick Workman, and sophomore third baseman Chesny Young were all voted to the team.
While hitting .335, Boyd lead the league with 42 walks and 20 doubles. Last season, he was an A-Sun All-Conference second team selection as a junior. Boyd enters his senior season just 44 games, 223 at-bats, 37 runs scored, 13 doubles and 30 walks away from setting the Mercer all-time career record in each respective statistic.
Last season, Backlund lead the A-Sun Conference with a .381 batting average, a .668 slugging percentage, 85 hits and 149 total bases. The San Jose, Calif. native finished second in the league with a .471 on-base percentage and 58 RBI, tied for second with 16 home runs and third with 51 runs scored.
Along with his A-Sun preseason honor, CollegeBaseballInsider.Com also recognized Backlund in an interview, he was named Louisville Slugger Preseason First Team All-American and a National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Preseason First Team All-American.
Although Backlund had such a stellar season in 2012, he says that he is still striving to perform even better to lead the Bears to an A-Sun Conference Championship win.
“This last offseason I really focused on getting into the best shape of my career,” said Backlund. “I have been very focused on not dwelling on past accomplishments and making sure I am dialed into the moment so I can be the best hitter I can be without distraction.”
Workman was selected to the A-Sun Conference first team and the A-Sun Conference All-Academic team as a sophomore. He finished 12th in the A-Sun Conference with a .333 batting average on the strength of 70 hits and ranked ninth in the league with a .422 on-base percentage.
Young is one of only two sophomores on the team after being named the A-Sun Conference Freshman of the Year and a Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-American in 2012. He had a sparkling debut season for Mercer, ranking third in the A-Sun Conference with a .367 batting average, fourth with a .443 on-base percentage and seventh with 79 hits.
Senior pitchers David Randall and David Teasley look to come back stronger than ever after having a very successful 2012 season.
“Our team has done a lot to prepare for this season,” Teasley explains. “I know that I am expected to pitch in many games and I have to be in great shape. We have done a lot of conditioning so that we will be able to pitch as much as we can to help the team out.”
Last season, Randall ranked second on the team with 82.1 innings pitched and sixth in the A-Sun with 76 strikeouts. The left-handed pitcher only allowed two home runs last season while inducing a team-high 110 ground ball outs, and held opposing hitters to a .257 batting average.
Teasley enters his senior season just 36 outings shy of breaking the all-time NCAA career record of 150 relief appearances, set in 1991 by Stetson’s Tom Hickox.
In the 2012 season, Teasley turned in one of the best seasons by a reliever in the nation as a junior and was voted onto the A-Sun All-Conference second team. He lead the A-Sun with 40 relief appearances while ranking fourth in the league with five saves and tied for sixth with seven wins. He struck out an impressive 49 batters in 47 innings pitched and held his opposing hitters to a .205 batting average.
The side-armed specialist ripped off a streak of 12-straight scoreless relief appearances last season. During that streak, Teasley struck out 15 batters and allowed just three hits in 12.1 innings pitched.
With such a talented group of players coming back this season, a championship win is almost in their hands, but Backlund says that they can’t get caught up in all of the preseason predictions.
“The only thing that matters is what we do between the white lines,” Backlund explains. “If our team plays together and is consistent, I think that when it comes down to the conference tournament, we will be competing for a title and we expect to come out on top.”