STARKVILLE, Miss. – The No. 3 Mercer baseball team dug deep to erase a four-run deficit, but in the end the rally wasn't enough in a 6-5 11-inning elimination game defeat against No. 4 Central Arkansas on Saturday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.
The loss eliminates Mercer (43-18) from the Starkville Regional and brings to an end the best season in program history that saw the Bears win a school-record 43 games and capture their first-ever Atlantic Sun Conference Regular Season Title.
Central Arkansas wasted no time jumping on the board, pushing two runs across against Mercer starter DJ Johnson in the top of the first inning. An RBI double by senior Ethan Harris and an RBI single by Michael Marietta gave UCA an early 2-0 lead.
The offensive pressure kept coming from Central Arkansas in the top of the second, as it plated another run and had the bases loaded threatening for more. Thankfully, senior David Randall came on and induced a pop-out to keep the score 3-0 in favor of UCA.
Mercer finally jumped on the board against Central Arkansas starter Jeffrey Enloe in the bottom of the third thanks once again to the efforts of sophomore Chesny Young. The Atlanta, Ga. native, who earlier in the contest extended his hitting streak up to an amazing 30-straight games, ripped an RBI double to left field to make the score 3-1 in favor of UCA.
That is the way things would stay for a while, as the threat of severe weather forced over an hour rain delay in the middle of the fifth inning.
When action picked back up, it would be Central Arkansas who lit up the scoreboard first in the top of the sixth. An RBI groundout by Harris and an RBI single by Marietta pushed UCA out to a 5-1 advantage.
Mercer didn't roll over, however as it began to make its run in the bottom of the seventh inning with a three-run frame. An RBI double by junior Sasha LaGarde and back-to-back sacrifice flies by Young and junior Nick Backlund brought Mercer within one of Central Arkansas, 5-4.
Down to its final three outs, Mercer rallied in the ninth as LaGarde was hit by a pitch and Young laced a double down the right field line to score LaGarde from first and tie the game at 5-5. The rally would end there, however, as Central Arkansas induced a double play two batters later to send the game to extra innings.
In the top of the 11th inning, of all things that cost this Mercer team the game it was its great defense. The Orange and Black, who lead the nation with a .982 fielding percentage, committed two errors in the frame, the second of the two allowing a Central Arkansas runner to score from third to give UCA the lead back, at 6-5.
The miracle ending simply wasn't in the cards for Mercer in the bottom half of the frame, as junior Bryce Biggerstaff recorded a 1-2-3 inning to seal the elimination game win for Central Arkansas.
Sophomore Dimitri Kourtis did an unbelievable job in relief for the Orange and Black, throwing 5.2 innings and allowing just one unearned run while striking out four.
Young once again led the Mercer offense by going 3-for-4 on the day with two doubles and three RBI to finish the season with a .401 average. Young becomes just the sixth Mercer player to finish the season with a .400 or better batting average and in the process set the program single-season record with 105 hits.
With the 2013 season ending today for Mercer, the program loses six great seniors who played their final game in the Orange and Black. Shortstop Evan Boyd, right-handed pitcher David Teasley, first baseman Travis Benn, left-handed pitcher David Randall, catcher David Reid-Foley and outfielder Logan Gaines are the winningest senior class in program history, helping Mercer to 158 wins over the past four seasons.