Hoping to complete a season sweep, Mercer (26-8, 6-3) started junior LHP Austin Cox (6-0, 4.85) against freshman lefty Brant Hurter (2-2, 4.85) in Macon. It was a staff day for the Bears, so weekend starter Cox was only scheduled to go one inning. Tech was coming off a thrilling series win over FSU while the Bears had lost their weekend series to Southern Conference foe Furman. Tonight was the Jackets’ night as they continued the late innings offensive dominance they showed versus FSU Sunday.
Both teams had doubles in the 1st but neither advanced further. Hurter struck out the side in impressive fashion after a leadoff double. As planned, Mercer brought in sophomore RHP Zach Graveno to pitch the 2nd.
Things went bad quickly for the Jackets in the 2nd, as Mercer started with an infield single, walk, hit batsman, a double and a single around one out. Mercer led 4-0. Then Hurter threw a potential double play comebacker wide to 2nd for an error, leading to two on. Brant showed some grit by ending the inning with a strikeout and ground ball out to keep it at 4-0.
It stayed that way until the Tech 5th, when Nick Wilhite and Wade Bailey singled and Joey Bart walked to load the bases for Kyle McCann. He didn’t waste the opportunity, as he blasted a no-doubt homer over the right field wall to tie the game. Junior RHP Nick Spear relieved on the mound and kept the game tied.
The tie didn’t last, as Mercer used three singles to score a run in the bottom of the inning. Serratos saved another run with a nice diving catch of a soft liner.
The Jackets put runners on 1st and 2nd with two outs after a Bailey double and walk to Bart. The Bears brought in junior sidearm righty Robert Groom to face English. He got a grounder to second, but the throw to first went badly wide, allowing the tying run to score. After a walk loaded the bases, Colin Hall battled with two strikes until Groom hit him, scoring the go ahead run. Serratos could not do further damage, so Andy Archer relieved Hurter for the Mercer 6th with a one run lead, 6-5. He gave up a single, but that runner was erased by Joey Bart when he tried to steal 2nd.
Mercer brought in sophomore LHP Tanner Hall for the 7th. After a single by Austin Wilhite, Nick laid down a bunt and the 3rd baseman unwisely tried to get Austin at 2nd. Instead, the ball went to deep center field, allowing Austin to score and Nick to reach 3rd. Wade Bailey drove him in with a sacrifice fly before Bart and McCann went back to back with homers, making it 10-5. After a single by English and a walk to Radcliff pinch hitting, Mercer brought in redshirt freshman RHP Ben Brock and he ended the inning.
The Bears battled back in their 7th when they loaded the bases on a single and two walks before Brandon Michie from Brisbane, Queensland got a two RBI single. Pinch hitter Posas grounded to second for out three with Tech’s lead cut to 10-7. Quickly, Austin Wilhite and Joey Bart restored the five run lead with solo homeruns in the Tech 8th. Mercer refused to go quietly and got a run with a pair of two out doubles in their 8th to make it 12-8.
Senior RHP Carter Varga came in to pitch the 9th, but couldn’t get through it and was relieved by freshman LHP Caleb Mitchell with the bases loaded and one out. The Jackets soon scored four runs, aided greatly by two errors on Mercer, their third and fourth of the game, and a wild pitch.
Leading 16-8, the Jackets brought in Bailey Combs to pitch the 9th and he finished the game without damage despite a couple of singles. Tech improved to 20-13, Mercer fell to 26-9 as the two teams split the season series. Hurter got his third win and Spear got his first loss.
Offensive highlights include two homers apiece for Bart and McCann and one for Wilhite. McCann was four for seven at the plate and had five RBI. Hurter showed maturity by surviving the rough second inning and keeping strong through the fifth, while Archer and Combs kept the dangerous Bears at arm’s length as the Jacket hitters did their thing, helped by terrible Mercer defense and wild pitching. Tech returns home to face Ga State then on to Pittsburgh. I will miss the GSU game due to travel. Go Jackets!