ATLANTA, Ga. –The Mercer University baseball team pounded out 18 hits and avoided elimination on its way to a 13-7 win over Elon College in the NCAA Atlanta Regional on Saturday afternoon at Russ Chandler Stadium.
The win means that Mercer (38-23) will play Alabama tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m., as it works its way back from an opening day loss in the double-elimination event.
Today's victory set two milestones for Mercer. It was the Bears 38th win of the season, tying the 1979 squad for the second-most wins in a season in school history. The win was also head coach Craig Gibson's 200th of his career at Mercer putting his overall record at 200-191 during his seven year tenure.
“I am just so happy for our guys because they are such a special group that is so much fun to be around,” said head coach Craig Gibson. “To come up to our first NCAA Regional and win a game is a special feeling and a great accomplishment for our program and the university as a whole.”
Sophomore Billy Burns lead-off the game with a single up the middle and made some history soon after. Burns stole his 30th base of the season to tie the Mercer single-season record (currently held by Barry Veal). The stolen base ended up being huge for the Bears as junior Thomas Carroll drove him in two batters later with an RBI single to plate Mercer's first run.
The Bears weren't done, however, tacking on two more runs in the frame. After Carroll's single, senior Michael Langley stepped up and cemented his place in Atlantic Sun Conference and Mercer history. Langley drove a single up the middle for his 100th hit of the season, making him the first Mercer player to ever collect 100 hits in a season and putting him in a tie for the fourth-most hits by an A-Sun player in single-season history. Junior Joe Winker culminated the inning with a huge two-out two-RBI single to increase the Bears lead to 3-0.
Elon responded in the top of the second when junior Neal Pritchard connected for a solo home run, his 12th of the season, to put the Phoenix on the board and make the score 3-1.
The Phoenix threatened to cut even further into the Bears lead, but Mercer starter Matt McCall induced Pritchard into an inning-ending double play to get out of the jam.
The Orange and Black continued its assault on Elon starter Ken Ferrer with three more runs in the bottom of the third. After the first three Bears reached base, Langley sliced an RBI-single to right field to put Mercer up 4-1. Winker came through as the next batter up when he laced a two-RBI double down the right field line to extend the Bears advantage to 6-1.
Burns started the bottom half of the fourth for Mercer with a triple down the right field line. That triple was Burns' fourth of the season, putting him in a two-way tie for the third-most in Mercer single-season history. McCarty promptly drove Burns in just moments later with a single through the right side to put the Bears up 7-1. Carroll kept the runs coming when he stepped up with two men on and crushed a three-run home run to right field to put Mercer comfortably in front, 10-1.
That was more than enough run support for McCall, who was strong throughout his outing. The Valdosta, Ga. native allowed four earned runs on three hits in 4.1 innings before being lifted due to a high pitch count.
Freshman David Teasley came on in relief with a bases loaded jam but could not get out of it, giving up a grand slam to freshman Alex Swim to bring Elon within five, at 10-5.
Mercer was not rattled, however, responding with two runs of its own in the bottom half of the fifth to put the game out of reach. An RBI double by McCarty and an RBI single by Tanis pushed the Bears lead to 12-5.
The MU bullpen did the rest from there, with sophomore David Randall, senior Lath Guyer, senior Scott Patterson and sophomore Jacob Matthews combining to allow just two runs over the final three innings of the contest.
Carroll finished his big game by going three-for-four with four RBI and three runs scored, Winker also drove in four runs and had two hits in the contest.
Tanis also collected his 100th hit of the 2010 season in the game, with a single in the third, thus joining teammate Langley with 100 hits in a single-season.
“Our guys really swung the bats well tonight and took some of the pressure off with some early runs,” said Gibson. “We came up here to win some games and we will be ready and looking forward to playing tomorrow no matter who we play.”