Bears Record Triple Play To Shore Up Sweep of ETSU
The Mercer softball team improved its home record to 12-2 with a pair of impressive Atlantic Sun Conference wins over East Tennessee State on Friday night at Sikes Field.
The Bears (23-17, 6-6 A-Sun) recorded two shutouts in the process, defeating the Buccaneers(14-26, 3-11 A-Sun) 8-0 in five innings in game one and then holding on to the 4-0 win in game two. Things just seemed to go Mercer's way on Friday, as the Bears ended game two on a triple play in the seventh.
All told, Mercer tagged ETSU pitchers for 17 total hits in the two games and it was the first time since February 22 against Savannah State that the Bears shutout an opponent in back-to-back games.
After starting out 1-6 in conference, the Bears have battled back and Friday's sweep was the team's fifth straight win in A-Sun play to even their record.
Four players had multiple hits in game one for the Bears including freshman McKenzie Woody, senior Amanda Santa Maria, junior Kassie Bailey and sophomore Sarah Santana. Woody, Santa Maria and Bailey all had two RBI in the game as well.
Overall, the Bears scored eight runs on 10 hits and were able to run rule ETSU at the end of five innings of play. It was Mercer's first run-rule victory since March 10 against Samford.
Mercer got things going early in the second inning of game one as the team rattled off five-consecutive singles to plate six runs off ETSU senior pitcher Jessica Duncan.
Then in the bottom of the fifth with the bases loaded, Santa Maria laced her second single of the game back up the middle to score the Bears' final two runs of the game.
Senior pitcher Kari Chambers received her career-high 11th win of the season on another magnificent outing. The Woodstock, Ga. native gave up just two hits in five innings of work and struck out six. It was Chambers' fourth shutout of the season, which is also a career-high.
Game two saw Jenni Holtz work effectively in her 19th start of 2011. Holtz went the distance for the eighth time this season and she too recorded her second shutout of the year. Holtz was roughed up a little to the tune of seven hits, but also recorded seven strikeouts.
The Bears were able to provide some run support in the fourth by way of two runs coming across on a strange play in left field. With runners on the corners, senior Anna Johnson roped a shot to shallow left field that was misplayed by ETSU's Sade Johnson and ended up going to the fence and scoring both Heather Strange and Tiffany Phillips.
Johnson ended up on third on the play and then was promptly put out on a double play to end the inning.
Mercer added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth when Santana continued her strong performance by hitting her fourth single of the day through the left side of the infield.
After a pair of singles by Johnson and Woody, junior Kristin Marko was able to score a run on a fielder's choice that got away from ETSU's catcher Witley Hensley on the play at the plate. ETSU's pitcher Katie Wolff then walked in the Bears' fourth run of the game and handed the ball over to pitcher Shelby Morris to get out of the inning. Morris retired the Bears next two batters to quiet the Mercer threat.
In the top of the seventh the Buccaneers put pressure of their own on Holtz. ETSU's first two batters reached base with nobody out. However, that changed quickly by a smart play at first by Kassie Bailey.
ETSU's Amy Campbell lined a shot to Bailey at first and, with both runners moving on the play, Bailey was able to step on her bag and go to second to wrap up the sweep on a game-ending triple play.
Mercer continues its eight-game conference home stand tomorrow as USC Upstate comes to town. Tomorrow will also be Senior Day for Mercer's six seniors. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.