Mercer Baseball Opens Fall Practice on Tuesday
MACON, Ga. – After a record setting 38-win 2010 campaign that featured an Atlantic Sun Championship and an NCAA Atlanta Regional appearance, the 2011 version of the Mercer baseball team took the field for the first time on Tuesday afternoon.
"The guys are excited and they worked very hard over the past four weeks doing individual work leading up to today," head coach Craig Gibson said. "We had a great run last summer and I think it has catapulted us into this fall season. I think the guys are still very hungry and so far over the first six weeks of school they have done everything right to put us in position to have a great chance to do it all over again."
Tanis was named the Georgia Dugout Club Division I Player of the Year and earned a Louisville Slugger Third Team All-American selection after leading the Bears with 22 home runs and 88 RBI last season. These numbers didn't go unnoticed as the Peachtree City, Ga. native was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 26th round of the 2010 MLB Draft. Not to be outdone was his junior classmate Burns who put together a fine season on the diamond for Mercer. The Marietta, Ga. product batted .381 and led the squad with 73 runs scored, a .477 on-base percentage and 30 stolen bases. Burns parleyed his success into a spot on the NCAA Atlanta Regional All-Tournament team and a CoSIDA ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District III second team selection.
Eighth-year head coach Craig Gibson also welcomes back seven of his top nine pitchers from last season, including all three weekend starters. Sophomore Matt McCall returns as the ace of the Bears staff while senior closer J.T. Odom anchors a very talented Mercer bullpen.
McCall, a 2010 A-Sun All-Freshman team honoree, had a breakout rookie season with the Orange and Black to emerge as the ace of a Mercer pitching staff that posted a 5.76 team ERA. The 6-1, 195-pound McCall amassed a 7-2 overall record, a 4.79 ERA and a team-high 73.1 innings pitched. Odom was lights out at the back of a very reliable Mercer bullpen. The submarine-style righty appeared in 35 games in 2010, earning five saves while ending the campaign by not allowing a run to score in his final 16 relief appearances.
The Orange and Black welcome nine newcomers to the squad including 2B/RHP DJ Johnson who was selected in the 21st round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of Cook County High School.
Starting on Monday, Mercer will begin practice each day at 3:30 p.m., with Tuesday and Thursday serving as the designated as off-days.
The annual best-of-five Orange and Black World Series culminates the fall practice season on October 26-31 at Claude Smith Field.
"What we are trying to create in the fall is an atmosphere of competition," said Gibson. "We certainly have some great returning players, but we also have some holes to fill and we will use these next five weeks of fall practice to evaluate and prepare for the spring."