Attempting to continue winning instate games, Tech faced Mercer, who always has good teams and plays Tech hard. The Bears sent a senior LHP, Christian Vann and Tech countered with freshman Will Shirah’s first start. Playing two midweek games is certainly stretching Tech’s staff, and it showed tonight as Mercer took the first of two meetings 6-2.
Shirah nearly survived a leadoff double and walk in the first, but a two-out, two-strike slicing double down the right field line scored two to give the Bears an early lead.
Then, Shirah was knocked out of the game in the second with two outs after a single, two walks and a sacrifice fly scored another run. Robert Winborne came in with runners on the corners. He got out of the inning when Mercer tried to score while the runner on first got into a rundown, but Tristin English threw home and Kyle McCann applied the tag for out three. Winborne also pitched the third with a 1-2-3 inning.
Oscar Serratos led off Tech’s third with his first homer of the season over the right field wall to make it 3-1.
Ben Schneiderjans came in to pitch the fourth in relief, the coaching staff wanting to preserve the bullpen for the weekend by not overusing any pitcher. Schneiderjans ran into big trouble and left with the bases loaded and one run in without getting an out. Bailey Combs came in to face the crisis. Two runs scored on sacrifice flies to make it 6-1, but the damage could have been much worse.
Vann walked the bases loaded with Jackets in the fourth and only through an iffy strike call didn’t walk Baron Radcliff as well. But he got Radcliff and popped up Chase Murray to face Joey Bart. Mercer went to junior RHP Robert Broom, who got Bart on a grounder, stranding the fifth, sixth, and seventh Tech base runners of the first four innings.
Jonathan Hughes came in to pitch the fifth, but unfortunately he couldn’t throw a strike and was relieved by Hugh Chapman with two on and no outs. Chapman retired the Bears on a sacrifice bunt and two strikeouts, preserving the 6-1 score. He showed some grit again in the Mercer sixth when he brushed off two errors behind him to keep the score within reach.
Next, Keyton Gibson came in to pitch the seventh and had a 1-2-3 inning. Jake Brace pitched the 8th and only faced three as well, but the hard way after he hit the first batter and got two strikeouts and a batter’s interference call resulting in a base stealer being out.
Sophomore RHP Zack Graveno pitched to Tech in the eighth without any damage. Jake Lee came in the pitch the ninth for Tech and worked around a walk to give the Jackets a final chance.
Back-to-back doubles by Murray and Bart scored a run but Tech was down to its last out when Mercer brought in their closer Nick Spear to face English, who flew out to center right for the final out as the Jackets fell to 12-9.
Broom got the win and Shirah the loss. The hitless relief by Tech pitchers Winborne, Combs, Chapman, Gibson, Brace, and Lee are positives, although the struggles of Hughes and Schneiderjans are worrying. Chapman in particular pitched out of two jams, neither of his own making. Tonight the Mercer pitching was just better overall.