Mercer baseball wins fourth straight SoCon series

MACON, Ga. (MERCER ATHLETICS) – The Mercer University baseball team won its fourth straight Southern Conference series, hanging on to defeat Western Carolina, 5-3, in Sunday afternoon’s series finale at Claude Smith Field.

Mercer (22-15, 9-3 SoCon) moved into the driver’s seat in the SoCon standings, extending its lead to 1.5 games over Samford and two games over Western Carolina (15-16, 7-5 SoCon) with another strong Sunday performance. The Bears are now 3-1 in conference series finales this season, after rolling past The Citadel, 17-0, a week ago.

“Today was a heavyweight fight and to win a championship you have to win these type of games against great teams like Western Carolina,” said head coach Craig Gibson. “I’m very proud of our guys for fighting, especially our seniors who had a great showing. Devin Bonin, DJ Johnson, Ben Lumsden, Eric Nyquist and Mitchell Wade all made big plays for us to win and we also got a phenomenal outing from sophomore Ryan Askew.”

The Bears used another strong pitching performance, utilizing six pitchers to hold WCU well below its season average of over seven runs per contest. Nyquist threw a scoreless first frame in a planned short start, before giving way to Askew in the second. The sophomore right-hander took over from there, giving up just one unearned run on three hits over 4.2 frames.

Wade retired both batters he faced in the contest to get the victory, improving to 2-1 on the season. Austin Lord and Lumsden combined to give up two runs over 2.1 innings, before Johnson picked up the final out for his fourth career save.

The Bears scored the game’s opening run for the first time in the series, pushing a run across in the first inning for an early 1-0 lead. Matt Meeder reached base for the 19th straight game with a single up the middle, before crossing the plate on Kyle Lewis’ RBI single through the left side of the infield.

Western Carolina tied the game in the top of the sixth, taking advantage of an error to plate a run on Danny Bermudez’s double in the right center field gap.

However, Mercer answered in the home half of the frame. Howard Joe put the Bears on top for good, driving in Jackson Ware with a single past the shortstop for a 2-1 advantage.

Bonin hit his sixth home run of the season in the seventh, pushing Mercer’s lead to 4-1 with a two-run shot to right center. The Bears kept the momentum going later in the inning, as Ware’s double to right field scored Danny Edgeworth for a 5-1 advantage.

The Catamounts made it interesting in the final two innings. WCU scored a run in the eighth on Reece Strong’s RBI single to center field, before making it a two-run game following Matt Smith’s solo shot to right field. Back-to-back hits put the tying run aboard with two outs in the ninth, but Johnson would retire the only batter he faced to close out the win.

Mercer’s lineup came up with timely hits to produce just offense for the victory, despite being held to six hits on the afternoon. Meeder led the way with two hits and two hits, while Bonin and Ware’s run-scoring hits in the seventh provided the team’s only extra-base hits of the game. Edgeworth finished with an interesting line, reaching base four times (two walks, two HBP) despite not recording an official at-bat in the contest.

The Bears travel to Atlanta to face Georgia State at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, before welcoming Georgia Southern for a 6 p.m. first pitch at Claude Smith Field to wrap up the pair of in-state battles this week.

Categories: Across Georgia Sports, Bibb County, Sports

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