MACON, Ga. – The Mercer softball team picked up two come-from-behind victories on day one of the Mercer Invitational, first downing IUPUI 7-5 and then scoring 14 unanswered runs in a 14-7 win over Alabama State in the night cap at Sikes Field.
The Bears (2-0) are hosting the three-team tournament over the next two days and got off to the start the team was looking for. However, head coach James DeFeo would rather have played with a lead than having to scrap out two gutsy wins on opening day.
Junior transfer Julia Rice was expected to come in this season as the Bears' No. 1 option inside the circle. She received the start in the season opener against IUPUI and got off to a shaky start. Rice allowed back-to-back singles to open the game and two batters later gave up a three-run homerun that put the Bears behind early.
Five newcomers, including four freshmen made their Mercer debut on opening day, many of whom made their presence known on Friday. Freshman Marissa Botz drove in her first career RBI bringing home junior McKenzie Woody to cut the Jaguars lead to 3-1 in the bottom of the third. Botz finished the game going 3-for-4 with two RBI.
Mercer added another run in the third before IUPUI tagged Rice for two more runs in the top of the fourth to extend its lead to 5-2. The Bears offense would respond once again however rattling off three runs off two hits and three IUPUI errors in the bottom of the fourth.
Freshman Kaytlin Haney slapped a single up the middle to score fellow freshman Natalie Shiver from third and Botz tallied her second RBI off another bloop single to left that scored junior Randi Rea to tie the game at five.
Rice would settle in after that, shutting down the Jaguars in their next three plate appearances. The teams went into the bottom of the seventh still tied until sophomore Molly Garmany had her first hit of the season. With a runner on first and one out, Garmany took Jocelyn Oppenhuis deep to center field for the walk-off victory.
Game two saw the Bears put themselves in another early deficit as sophomore transfer Rachel Hugghins struggled in her first career start in a Mercer uniform. Hugghins, who came over with her sister Victoria from Nicholls State in the offseason, allowed seven runs in the first inning before Rice took over to get out of the inning.
Down seven, the Bears would go on to score 14 unanswered runs as Rice allowed just four hits over the next six and a third innings of work. Seven Bears starters recorded hits in the game junior Randi Rea leading the way in game two.
Rea went 3-for-3 with four runs scored and a solo homerun. Garmany added two more RBI in game two and after two games leads the team with four RBI.
Rice picked up the wins in both games and a complete game on Friday.
The Bears return to action tomorrow against the same two teams as the Mercer Invitational continues from Sikes Field.