STARKVILLE, Miss. – The Mercer baseball team pounded out 14 hits and rode an excellent start from sophomore Brandon Barker to defeat No. 23 Mississippi State 6-1 on Saturday afternoon in front of 2,102 fans at Dudy Noble Field.
Mercer (12-4) has now taken down at least one ranked team in each of the last two seasons, while Mississippi State (13-3) saw its season-high seven-game winning streak come to an end with the loss.
Mercer jumped out in front early in the top of the first after back-to-back singles by junior Logan Gaines and sophomore Nick Backlund and a passed ball allowed a run to come home and make the score 1-0 in favor of the Bears.
The Orange and Black added to their lead in the top of the third when Backlund clubbed a solo home run, his Atlantic Sun Conference leading seventh of the season, to left field to go up by a 2-0 margin.
The Bears kept piling it on in the fourth after an RBI single by freshman Chesny Young extended Mercer's lead up to 3-0.
Mississippi State threatened to get on the board in the bottom of the fourth after putting runners on first and second with no outs, but Barker induced a fly ball and a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the jam and keep Mercer in front.
The Bulldogs did push a run across in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a controversial call. After a foul ball had been called, the home plate umpire reversed his decision allowing freshman Demercus Henderson to reach base. Henderson eventually came around after a fielder's choice, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-1.
Mercer showed it was not rattled, however, coming right back with a three-run inning in support of Barker in the top of the seventh. Junior Logan Gaines lifted a solo home run to left field and classmate Evan Boyd pulled a two-RBI double to right to push the Bears lead up to five, at 6-1.
That would be more than enough run support for Barker who pitched an absolute gem for the Bears. The Woodstock, Ga. native went eight innings and allowed just one earned run on six hits to pick up his second win of the season.
Backlund finished the afternoon going a perfect 4-for-4 with two runs scored while Boyd went 3-for-4 on the day with two RBI.
Mercer concludes its three-game weekend series with Mississippi State tomorrow afternoon. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Dudy Noble Field.