JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Mercer baseball team received a dominant start from junior Brandon Barker and generated just enough offense to come away with a series opening 5-4 win over North Florida on Friday evening at Harmon Stadium.
Mercer (25-8, 7-3 A-Sun) has now won seven out of its last eight games overall and improves its record up to 8-3 against top-100 ratings percentage index (RPI) squads in 2013.
After Barker and North Florida hurler Tommy Organ matched zeros over the first two innings of play, the Bears struck first in the top of the third. An RBI double by senior Evan Boyd followed by an RBI single by sophomore Chesny Young put Mercer in front by a 2-0 margin.
The visitors kept things going in the top of the fourth when an RBI double by senior Logan Gaines extended the Bears advantage up to 3-0.
Mercer added two more insurance runs in the top of the sixth thanks to a pair of North Florida errors and a perfect suicide squeeze bunt by senior Travis Benn to take a 5-0 lead.
That would be plenty of run support for Barker who pitched an absolute gem. The Woodstock, Ga. native tossed seven shutout innings and limited the best hitting team in the A-Sun Conference to just seven hits to go along with six strikeouts.
North Florida tried to mount a late comeback with a three-run bottom of the eighth, keyed by a bases clearing double by sophomore Spencer Herrmann, to make the score 5-3.
The Bears bullpen did eventually come through in the end when sophomore Dimitri Kourtis held the Ospreys to an unearned run in the ninth before retiring the final two batters of the game to pick up his fourth save of the season.
Young and Gaines each finished the contest going 2-for-4 with an RBI to pace the Bears offense in the win.
Mercer returns to the diamond tomorrow afternoon for game two of its series against UNF. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Harmon Stadium.