ATLANTA, Ga. – On a bitterly cold Tuesday night, the Mercer baseball team heated things up versus Georgia Tech, defeating the nation's No. 6 ranked team, 4-2.
The Bears' (18-9) win over Georgia Tech (21-5) also ended the longest current winning streak in the country at 16 games.
"Just a great win for our program over a great team and I am so proud of how tough our guys played tonight," head coach Craig Gibson said. "Justice French and Russell Moses, two great seniors, pitched great for us tonight and Evan Boyd picked us up late with a big two-out hit."
Georgia Tech lit up the scoreboard first in the bottom of the first when junior Matt Skole pulled an RBI double into the right-center field gap to give Tech an early 1-0 lead.
That is where things stayed, as both Bears' starter Justice French and Yellow Jackets' starter Matt Grimes matched zeros in the second and third innings.
The Rambling Wreck ended the scoreless streak in the bottom of the fourth when freshman Chase Butler singled up the middle to make the score 2-0.
Butler's hit knocked French out of the game (since he exceeded his pre-determined pitch count set by the Mercer coaching staff). The Suwanee, Ga. native pitched very well in his abbreviated outing, allowing just the two runs on six hits to go along with six strikeouts in 3.2 innings pitched.
Mercer finally broke through off Grimes in the top of the fifth when freshman Derrick Workman sliced an RBI single to left field to cut Tech's in half, 2-1. The Bears had a chance to inflict even more damage in the frame, but Grimes got senior Joe Winker to foul out with the bases loaded to end the threat.
After a leadoff walk to junior Jacob Tanis to start the sixth, Grimes was pulled from the contest for senior reliever Taylor Wood. The walk proved to be harmless, however, as Wood worked out of the jam to keep Georgia Tech in front 2-1.
Grimes final line included one earned run on three hits and five strikeouts in five innings pitched.
The Orange and Black eventually pulled even with the Jackets in the top of the seventh when junior Billy Burns laid down a perfect bunt for a base hit that scored the sophomore Boyd and tie the game at 2-2.
The Bears continued to harass the Georgia Tech relief pitching in the top of the eighth when Boyd came up, with runners on second and third, and promptly pulled a clutch two-RBI double to right field. That gave Mercer its first lead of the game, 4-2.
Not to be lost in the shuffle of runs Mercer pushed across in the late innings was the stellar relief pitching of senior Moses. Moses, who came on for French in the bottom of the fourth, tossed 5.1 innings of shutout baseball to keep the Yellow Jackets offense at bay and secure the comeback win for the Bears.
"Tonight was a great win for us and I hope we can carry this momentum forward for the rest of the season," said Gibson. "We want to play on this field one more time this season because the way Georgia Tech is going they are on track to host another NCAA Regional."
Mercer is back on the field this weekend when it travels to Buies Creek, N.C. for a three-game Atlantic Sun Conference series with Campbell University. Game one of the series is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday evening at Taylor Field.