STARKVILLE, Miss. – The No. 3 Mercer baseball team fell behind early and couldn't muster a late rally in an eventual 9-4 loss in its 2013 NCAA Tournament opener against No. 2 South Alabama on Friday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.
Mercer (43-17) left 14 runners on base and allowed South Alabama (43-18) to score five two-out runs to drop the opening game of the Starkville Regional and lose its third-straight game for the first time all season.
After a scoreless top of the first for Mercer, South Alabama went to work on Bears starter Brandon Barker in the bottom half of the frame. A sacrifice fly and a two-RBI single by senior Dustin Dalken chased Barker from the game and gave the Jaguars an early 3-0 lead.
The damage could've been a lot worse, but sophomore Ben Lumsden came on for Barker and struck out back-to-back batters with the bases loaded to get the Bears out of the inning.
South Alabama continued to swing hot bats in the bottom of the second, pushing across another run courtesy of an RBI single by senior Nick Zaharion to take a 4-0 lead.
Mercer had its best scoring chance of the game in the top of the third when it loaded the bases with just one out, but South Alabama starter Anthony Izzio retired the next two Bears hitters to keep the Jaguars ahead, 4-0.
The Bears finally got to Izzio in the top of the fifth thanks to a pair of hard hit balls. Back-to-back doubles by sophomore Chesny Young and junior Nick Backlund in the left field corner put Mercer on the board at 4-1.
That would be as close as the Bears would get, however, as South Alabama put the game out of reach with a four-run bottom of the sixth inning. The Jaguars just simply wore down the Mercer bullpen and used five hits in the frame, including a two-RBI single by senior Dustin Dalken, to go up by an 8-1 margin.
Mercer tried to make a comeback with a three-run top of the eighth inning, but South Alabama reliever Jamie Dennis pitched a scoreless ninth to secure the win for the Jaguars.
Backlund led the Bears line-up by going 2-for-3 with two RBI while Young went 2-for-4 with a run scored to extend his hitting streak to 29-straight games in the loss.
Mercer now awaits the loser of tonight's game between No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 4 Central Arkansas in an elimination game tomorrow afternoon. The loser's bracket game on Saturday afternoon is scheduled for a 2 p.m. CT start at Dudy Noble Field.