Mercer’s Comeback Attempt Falls Just Short in 9-7 Loss to Belmont
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Mercer baseball team fell behind big early and never recovered in a 9-7 loss to Belmont in the Final Round of the Atlantic Sun Championship on Saturday afternoon at Dugan Field.
The Bears had runners on first and second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but senior Joe Winker grounded out to first base to end the game and give Belmont the 2011 A-Sun Conference Championship.
Mercer finishes with a 39-20 record, tying the 1981 squad for the most wins in a single-season in program history.
The Bears 77 wins over the past two years is the most in back-to-back seasons since Stetson won 80 games in 2006-07.
Things could not have started any worse for Mercer and starter Brandon Love in the top of the first against the Bruins. Belmont strung five-straight hits together to start the game, capped off by an RBI double by senior Tim Egerton, to put the Bruins up 4-0 early.
Freshman DJ Johnson came on in relief of Love in the first, and after allowing another run to cross finally got Mercer out of the inning down 5-0.
Mercer responded with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the frame. An error by the Belmont catcher and an RBI groundout by senior Thomas Carroll brought the Bears within three, at 5-2.
After an RBI groundout in the second inning by junior Jacob Tanis made the score 5-3, The Bears climbed all the way back to tie the game back up with a pair of runs in the third. An RBI groundout by junior Blaine Matthews and an RBI single by junior Billy Burns knotted the score at 5-5.
Belmont bounced right back in the top of the fourth, however, using an RBI double by junior Dylan Craig to re-take the lead, 6-5.
Not to be lost in the shuffle of runs being scored by both teams was the pitching performance delivered by Johnson. The Adel, Ga. native threw a season-high 5.2 innings and allowed just one earned run on six hits and four strikeouts.
The score stayed 6-5 going into the bottom of the seventh when Mercer capitalized on a Belmont miscue to tie the game up once again. With sophomore Evan Boyd on third with two outs, Bruins reliever Blake Harvey uncorked a wild pitch allowing Boyd to score and make the score 6-6.
Belmont found a way to rally for two more in the top of the eighth against Bears closer J.T. Odom. An RBI triple by junior Zac Mitchell and a sacrifice fly put the Bruins back in front, 8-6.
Odom, Burns and senior John Moreland represented Mercer on the 2011 A-Sun All-Tournament Team.
Mercer will now have to wait and see if its 39 wins and Top-60 RPI is enough to secure an at-large bid in next week's NCAA Tournament. The 2011 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship 64-team field will be announced on Monday, May 30, at 12:30 p.m. on ESPN.