MACON, Ga. – The Mercer baseball team opened its 2014 season in style by sweeping a doubleheader over High Point on Saturday evening at Claude Smith Field.
On a day when Mercer's (2-0) experienced and high-powered offense was mostly held in check, the Bears pitching staff stepped up to guide the squad to 5-2 and 5-4 wins over High Point (0-2).
"I thought we played pretty well overall even though we had a couple plays defensively that didn't go our way, but they are a tough club that challenges you and puts a lot of balls in play," head coach Craig Gibson said. "Especially happy for guys like Mitchell Wade and Stephen Glaze who stepped up in big spots for us today on the mound when we really needed them."
Senior Michael Massi led the way for the Mercer hitters, going a combined 2-for-5 with five RBI in the doubleheader sweep.
"Offensively, Michael Massi is a big piece for us because he is in a big RBI spot in our line-up being in the six-hole." Gibson said. "He is a guy that just lives for the big moment and he usually rises up and captures it and he did just that on several occasions for us today."
In game one, neither team's ace was sharp early on as Mercer's Brandon Barker and High Point's John McGillicuddy both conceded runs over the first two innings.
Down 2-1 going into the bottom of the third, the Bears broke out with a three-run inning thanks to an RBI double by senior Nick Backlund and a two-RBI single by Massi to make the score 4-2.
Barker would settle down from there, allowing just the two earned runs on five hits while striking out six over five innings of work.
With Mercer clinging to a 5-2 lead and the tying run at the plate in the top of the ninth for High Point, Glaze came on and struck out the final batter of the contest to secure the win and earn his first career save.
Game two saw Mercer jump out to an early lead in the bottom of the third thanks to the play of junior Nate Moorhouse. Moorhouse, who was seeing his first game action since breaking his leg last March, belted a two-run home run over the wall in right-center field to put the Bears in front 2-0.
Orange and Black starter Grant Papelian kept the High Point bats at bay early on, allowing only one run on six hits in 4.2 innings pitched.
Massi did his part to provide Mercer with some big time insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth when he guided a two-RBI single up the middle to make the score 4-1 Bears.
The Panthers slowly started to chip away at Mercer's lead, however, scoring runs in the seventh and eighth innings to make the score 5-3 heading into the top of the ninth.
High Point plated another run in its half of the ninth inning and was threatening for more before junior Morgan Pittman came on in relief and retired the final three batters of the contest to earn the save and give Mercer the doubleheader sweep.
Moorhouse went 4-for-8 from his leadoff position in the Bears lineup with two runs scored and a stolen base on the day.
In addition to the save he picked up in game one, Glaze also earned the win in game two after throwing 1.1 innings of scoreless relief.
Mercer wraps up its three-game series with High Point on Sunday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Claude Smith Field.