Fail to capitalize at North Florida
After an impressive 10-1 win against then No. 12 ranked Georgia Tech and taking the first game against North Florida in a 5-4 thriller, the Mercer baseball team dropped their next two matches to the University of North Florida making it the Bears’ first weekend series loss of the year.
Junior Brandon Barker and senior David Randall pitched the first two innings for Mercer and didn’t allow a single hit to start the night off for the Bears hurlers.
The home team broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the third when sophomore Chesny Young followed up a double by senior Evan Boyd with an RBI single to left field to give Mercer an early 1-0 lead.
After Georgia Tech tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth, senior Travis Benn provided the Bears with an answer in the bottom half of the frame. Benn lifted a two-run home run that bounced on top of, then over the wall in right-center field to push Mercer back in front 3-1.
That is the way things would stay until the Orange and Black put the game out of reach with an emphatic seven-run bottom of the eighth inning. Mercer batted around in the frame and received a three-run home run by Benn and a two-run long ball from junior Sasha LaGarde to make the final score 10-1.
Junior Stephen Glaze earned his second win of the season by throwing two frames of scoreless relief while sophomore Dimitri Kourtis picked up his third save of the season by closing out the contest with three-straight shutout innings.
In the first game of the series against the Ospreys, junior Brandon Barker received the start on the mound for the Bears. The first inning was quiet for both Mercer and North Florida as neither team was able to get anything going from behind the plate.
The Bears struck first in the top of the third. An RBI double by senior Evan Boyd followed by an RBI single by sophomore Chesny Young put Mercer in front by a 2-0 margin.
The visitors kept things going in the top of the fourth when an RBI double by senior Logan Gaines extended the Bears advantage up to 3-0.
Mercer added two more insurance runs in the top of the sixth thanks to a pair of North Florida errors and a perfect suicide squeeze bunt by senior Travis Benn to take a 5-0 lead.
That would be enough for the Bears and starter Brandon Barker to win the game despite a valiant comeback effort from UNF to make the game 5-4.
The North Florida bats proved too much to handle for the Orange and Black in game two as the Ospreys were able to rattle off 10 runs to win the game 10-4.
Mercer wasted little time jumping on North Florida’s starting pitcher Nick Allbritton, scoring a pair of runs in the top of the first. With junior Sasha LaGarde and sophomore Chesny Young on second and third, junior Nick Backlund brought them both home with a two-RBI double to make the score 2-0.
The Ospreys came back with an answer just an inning later thanks to a three-spot in the bottom of the second. A two-RBI triple by sophomore Drew Weeks and an RBI single by freshman Kyle Brooks put UNF back up 3-2.
North Florida continued to simply put balls in play, pushing another three runs across in the bottom of the fourth on several balls that were not hit hard at all but continued to find holes in the Bears defense. Six singles, most of which either failed to leave the infield or just slipped past a Mercer defender, accounted for three UNF runs to push the home team’s lead up to 6-2.
While the Ospreys were finding ways to manufacture runs, Mercer had no such luck against Allbritton. After some success in the first inning, the Bears struggled against the right-hander until the top of the eighth. Following a single by Young, junior Derrick Workman deposited a fastball over the fence in right field for his team-leading eighth home run of the season to bring Mercer within two, at 6-4.
That would be as close as the Bears would get however, as UNF scored four runs in the bottom half of the eighth and freshman Corbin Olmstead pitched a scoreless ninth to secure the win for the Ospreys.
Game three was once again a disappointing one for the Bears. Despite a valiant effort from starting pitcher DJ Johnson, the Bears fell 3-2.
For the third time in as many days, Mercer lit up the scoreboard first after an RBI single by junior Austin Barrett put the Bears ahead early 1-0.
The Orange and Black tried to add to their advantage in the top of the third inning, but a fly out by junior Michael Massi left the bases loaded and the score still 1-0 in favor of Mercer.
The score would remain 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth when sophomore Drew Weeks yanked a solo home run to left field to pull UNF into a tie with Mercer at 1-1.
The Ospreys continued to use the long ball to their advantage in the bottom of the fifth after senior Paul Karmeris and junior Tyler Marincov both went yard with solo shots to make the score 3-1 in favor of the home team.
The Bears offense continued to struggle to generate any momentum against North Florida starting pitcher Michael Renner. Following the first inning, Mercer only mustered one hit against the soft throwing left-hander until a hectic top of the eighth.
After singles by Barrett and Massi, senior Logan Gaines lined an RBI single to left field to make the score 3-2.
The Mercer rally ran out of steam going into the ninth as freshman Corbin Olmstead pitched a scoreless frame to secure his fifth save of the season.
The Mercer baseball takes to the field again on Friday, April 12 for a home weekend series against FGCU. Games are scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m. Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.