Love Throws Gem to Lift Mercer to 3-1 Win
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Senior Brandon Love continued his dominant stretch on the mound with another stellar outing to lift the Mercer baseball team to a 3-1 series opening win over East Tennessee State on Friday evening at Thomas Stadium.
With UNF and FGCU idle, Mercer (24-16, 7-9 A-Sun) now moves into sole possession of sixth place in the league standings with the win.
The story of the night, however, was Love who stepped up as a senior team leader with a gutsy effort to win his fourth-straight start. The Augusta, Ga. native went a career-long 8.1 innings and allowed just one run on seven hits while collecting a season-high eight strikeouts.
After Love and ETSU starter Jake Long matched zeros over the first two frames, junior Evan Boyd opened the scoring up in the top of the third. The Albany, Ga. native crushed a solo home run to right center to give the Bears an early 1-0 lead.
That is the way things stayed as Love looked sharp early, holding the Buccaneers to just two hits over the first four innings.
ETSU did manage to scrap a run across in the bottom of the fifth when a sacrifice fly by junior Derek Niesman tied the game up at 1-1.
The Orange and Black responded, however, grabbing the lead right back after an RBI groundout by sophomore Nate Moorhouse made the score 2-1 Mercer in the top of the sixth.
The Bears extended their advantage up to 3-1 in the top of the seventh when junior Jamie McMillan pulled an RBI single through the right side to score Boyd and give Love all the offensive support he would need.
ETSU made things interesting in the ninth, putting the tying run on base, but freshman Morgan Pittman came on and retired the final batter of the game to pick up his first save of the season.
Boyd finished the game going 2-for-5 with two runs scored while redshirt sophomore Austin Barrett tallied a season-high three hits in the win.
Mercer is back at it tomorrow afternoon for game two of its series against ETSU. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Thomas Stadium.