ATLANTA, Ga. –The Mercer baseball team gave Alabama all it could handle before dropping a 5-3 heartbreaker to the Crimson Tide in the NCAA Atlanta Regional on Sunday afternoon at Russ Chandler Stadium.
The loss concludes a magical season for Mercer (38-24) that saw it win the second-most games in school history and set multiple Atlantic Sun records as well.
The Bears finished their season with the third-highest team batting average in A-Sun history (.340) and the eighth-best fielding percentage in conference history (.969).
“Just a tough end to a great season,” said head coach Craig Gibson. “I just never got the feeling that we would not keep winning and keep playing baseball, so for it to be over feels very strange.”
Just as he did in yesterday's game against Elon, sophomore Billy Burns started the game with a lead-off single for Mercer. The Bears made it count when junior Thomas Carroll hit a sacrifice fly which scored Burns and made the score 1-0.
After junior Justice French retired the first four batters in order, Alabama started to do some damage at the dish in the second. The Tide scored four runs in the frame, to go up 4-1, thanks to a solo home run by senior Jake Smith, a two-RBI single by senior Cody Trotter and an RBI double by sophomore Taylor Dugas.
The Orange and Black kept plugging away in the third with another run off Alabama starter Jason Townsend. Sophomore Jacob Tanis dropped an RBI single into right field to up his RBI season total to 88 and bring Mercer within two, at 4-2.
French pitched into the fourth before being relieved by senior Lath Guyer. French lasted 3.1 and gave up four earned runs, but did his job by keeping the Bears in the game.
Mercer got back to work after back-to-back scoreless innings, with a run in the sixth. After Tanis lead-off the frame with a double, Carroll drove in his second run of the game with a double of his own to cut Alabama's lead to just one, at 4-3.
The Tide would push their advantage back to two runs after manufacturing another run in the sixth. Freshman Andrew Miller hit an RBI single up the middle to put Alabama up 5-3.
That was all that Guyer gave up in a masterful relief appearance in what would be his final appearance as a Bear. The Athens, Ga. native went four innings and allowed just the one earned run on three hits.
Mercer kept fighting until the very end, putting the tying run on base in the ninth. A lead-off single by freshman Travis Benn and a walk to senior Tyler McCarty brought Tanis up as the potential go-ahead run. Unfortunately for MU, Alabama closer Jake Smith induced Tanis into a foul pop up to end the game and the Bears' season.
“We just had such an unbelievable season and we accomplished so much it is disappointing that it is over,” said Gibson. “I think we laid the groundwork this year that hopefully will help us compete for championships for years to come.”