Bears Continue Skid, Drop Two to Belmont
MACON, Ga. – The Mercer softball team suffered a pair of devastating one-run Atlantic Sun Conference losses to Belmont on Friday night at Sikes Field, falling in game one 4-3 and then dropping the night cap, 7-6.
The losses move the Bears to 5-9 in A-Sun play and 24-22 overall, while Belmont picked up its second-straight A-Sun sweep and moves to 5-7 in conference and 11-30 overall. Belmont's reigning A-Sun Player of the Week, pitcher Mia Vierra picked up both wins on the day.
The Bears limited Belmont to just two hits in game one, yet several uncharacteristic Mercer errors and untimely pitching lead to four runs which proved to be enough as the Bruins pulled out the one-run victory.
Mercer starting pitcher, senior Kassie Bailey struggled early on allowing Belmont's leadoff batter to both reach and come across for the game's first score off a pair of wild pitches. Bailey initially struck out Vierra swinging as the game's leadoff batter but the pitch got away from Mercer's Sarah Santana behind the plate and Vierra was able to reach safely.
After a pair of groundouts moved Vierra to third she would come across on another errant pitch by Bailey to give the Bruins the 1-0 lead at the end of one.
Mercer regained its composure and took the lead two innings later, thanks in part to Bailey at the plate. Bailey lined a hard shot to second which handcuffed Belmont's Courtney Elrod and allowed the speedy McKenzie Woody to score from second on the error. A Tiffany Phillips sacrifice fly to right on the next play scored the Bears' second run of the inning as a pinch running Amber Bowman raced home from third.
After taking the lead, Mercer seemed to have the momentum and scored another run in the bottom half of the fourth to extend the margin. Senior Sara Stukes soared her sixth home run of the season, a solo shot to center which tied her for the team lead.
The Bears continued to roll along as Bailey carried a no-hitter into the top of the sixth. However, another Mercer miscue derailed the Bears hope of snapping their losing streak as senior Kristin Marko, dropped a would-be out at first base to open the inning.
Belmont then placed its first hit of the game two batters later when Heather Turner laced a one-out double to left center to start the Bruins rally. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Vierra again would come across to bring Belmont back with one at 3-2.
A Belmont RBI single and an RBI ground out to second plated the go ahead runs in the sixth and that would be all Belmont needed to capture the win.
Mercer sophomore McKenzie Woody and Kristin Marko each had three hits in the game to lead the Bears at the plate. Kassie Bailey recorded the loss, throwing six complete with four strike outs and just one earned run.
In game two, Mercer head coach James DeFeo changed things up and for all intents and purposes received a healthy dose of offense as the Bears tallied 12 hits in the game, but again the Bears were able to scrap out the win.
Junior Kerri Nidiffer received the start in game two and did a solid job to start, but the Bruins began to figure her out by the third and rattled off two runs off three hits in the inning. Mia Vierra struck again as she roped a one-out two-run home run down the left field line to give Belmont the outright lead.
After the Bears failed to put a runner into scoring position in the first three innings, DeFeo went to his bullpen bringing in junior Molly Anderson in relief of Nidiffer. Anderson didn't fair well inside the circle as she allowed the game's next five runs.
Anderson allowed a three-run home run in the fourth to Ashley Hammer, extending the Bruins lead to 5-0. Anderson however, did settle in and to get out of the inning and finished her outing with three innings pitched allowing four hits and five runs.
Mercer got on the board in its half of the fifth off a Sarah Santana RBI single to right center to make the score 6-1. Santana went 1-for-4 in the game with the RBI single.
Junior Lilli Luke started a near Mercer comeback in the sixth when she led off the inning with her second home run of the season, a solo blast to center. Luke had two hits in the game as she also doubled again in the seventh. Luke's home run was the first of three runs the Bears would score in the sixth.
Stukes brought home Phillips for the inning's second run off an RBI double to left center and then a Caitlyn Peisel sacrifice to left brought the score to 6-4 at the end of six. Belmont added an insurance run in the top of the seventh off a leadoff home run by Heather Turner.
The Bears hung around in their last turn at the plate as a pair of back-to-back hits from Molly Garmany and Lilli Luke. With no outs senior Tiffany Phillips almost tied up the game as she took a Vierra offering that would have sailed over the fence had it not been for an outstanding defensive play by Belmont's Heather Turner at the wall.
The play instead went in the books as sacrifice fly to which allowed Garmany to score. An RBI groundout by Stukes to short plated a pinch-running Heather Strange on the next play to get the Bears to within one at 7-6. But with two outs a deep fly ball by Caitlyn Peisel was corralled for the game's final out, ending Mercer's hope for a comeback.
The Bears get back to A-Sun action tomorrow afternoon hosting Lipscomb for a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m.