Mercer Splits Opening Day Doubleheader with Morehead State
MACON, Ga. – The Mercer baseball team combined to score 30 runs on 34 hits, but settled for a split in its doubleheader against Morehead State to open the 2012 season on Friday afternoon at Claude Smith Field.
After taking home a dominant 22-6 victory over the Eagles in game one, Morehead State fought back for a 9-8 win in the nightcap.
The 22 runs put up by the Bears in their game one win was the most runs scored by Mercer since a 24-1 victory over Florida A&M on March 1, 2011. The Orange and Black also improved to 6-3 in season openers under ninth-year head coach Craig Gibson with the win.
In game one, things started slowly for both teams until the bats came alive for both clubs in the fifth inning. With the score 3-1 in favor of Mercer, Morehead State ripped off a five-run top of the fifth, aided by a grand slam by senior Eric Bainer, to take a 6-3 lead.
Mercer starter Brandon Love was knocked out of the game in the fifth and finished the day with 4.1 innings pitched, five runs allowed and five strikeouts.
The Bears picked up their ace in a big way, however, combing to score 17 runs over the next two frames, including an 11-run bottom of the sixth. Sophomore Nick Backlund did most of the damage in the sixth when he launched a grand slam and a solo home run in the same inning to put the Orange and Black comfortably ahead, 20-6.
Game two started very similar to the first, with both teams feeling each other out early before exploding offensively in the middle frames.
With the Eagles clinging to a 4-3 lead in the sixth, the Mercer bats once again stepped up and plated four runs in the bottom half to take a 7-4 lead. Junior Logan Gaines had the big hit in the inning when he ripped a two-RBI double down the left field line.
Morehead State kept chipping away at the Bears lead until it got a big hit from redshirt junior Kellen Begeman in the top of the eighth. The Eagles designated hitter turned on a 2-0 pitch from freshman reliever Morgan Pittman to give the visitors a 9-8 advantage.
Junior Matt Duncan worked the final two innings of the contest, striking out sophomore Hunter Stiles with a man on second and two outs in the ninth to pick up the save and secure the win for Morehead State.
Mercer returns to the field tomorrow afternoon to continue its four-game series with Morehead State. Game time on Saturday afternoon is scheduled for 12 noon at Claude Smith Field.