MACON, Ga. – The Mercer baseball team bounced back in a big way Saturday in a doubleheader sweep over Kennesaw State, using a Nick Backlund grand slam for an 8-4 victory in game one, before Sasha LaGarde belted a three-run walk-off home run in the nightcap to give the Bears an 11-8 victory and series win at Claude Smith Field.
The Bears (16-6, 2-1) take the series from the Owls (12-11, 1-2) for the second-straight year and have now won five-consecutive series from their in-state counterpart.
In game one, Kennesaw jumped on top in the second inning with a single run, but Mercer answered right back with a pair in its half of the second frame, capitalizing on a KSU error and using an RBI single from Matt Meeder to give the Bears a 2-1 advantage.
Mercer held that one-run lead until the bats came to life in the fifth inning and some two-out magic put five runs on the board thanks to an RBI base knock from LaGarde and a grand slam from Backlund to give the Bears a commanding 7-1 lead.
After an insurance run in the fifth made it 8-1, KSU rallied back in the sixth inning and used a three-run blast to left field by Brennan McGowan to cut the Mercer lead to 8-4.
Morgan Pittman would go to work from there and shut down the Owls over the final 3.0 innings, giving up just one hit to earn his fourth save of the season. He saved it for Gran Papelian (2-1) who earned his second victory of the season as he tossed 5.1 innings and gave up four runs on nine hits, while striking out one.
The Bears were looking to sweep the doubleheader and take the series in the nightcap of the doubleheader, and they broke out the bats early and often, scoring in five consecutive innings, including a four spot in the third frame to take a 5-1 lead. Derrick Workman got his bat going in the fifth, leading off the inning with a solo shot to straight away center for his first home run of the year.
KSU would eventually fight back and tie the game in the eighth to knot the score 8-8, but Mercer had a script of its own to write in the ninth.
After taking a breaking ball for strike one, the senior unloaded on the next pitch and connected with his seventh home run of the season, a three-run blast to left-center to give Mercer an 11-8 victory in walk-off fashion.
Ben Lumsden (1-2) was credited with the win in 1.0 innings of relief work, while KSU's James Connell (2-2) suffered the loss, tossing 2.1 innings and giving up the game-winning long ball.
Charlie Madden, Chesney Young and Massi all finished the doubleheader with five hits, while LaGarde and Backlund drove in five runs apiece on the day. Massi ended the series with eight hits in 14 at bats, including a .714 on-base percentage.
The Bears return to action Tuesday, March 18, traveling to Savannah State for a matchup with the Tigers. First pitch is slated for 5 p.m.