Mercer defeats Samford, 14-5, to clinch share of SoCon title
Mercer (30-20, 15-6 SoCon) also reached the 30-win mark for the sixth straight season with tonight’s victory, while securing the fifth regular-season crown in program history.
After scoring just two runs over the first four innings, the Bears’ lineup exploded over the final four frames, plating 12 runs to roll to the win. Mercer reached double-figure hits for the eighth time in its last nine contests, finishing with 14 on the night. Devin Bonin led the way with four hits and a team-best three runs, while Charlie Madden was one of four others with multiple-hit performances on his way to a career-best six RBIs.
The late run support was more than enough for Mercer starter Eric Nyquist, who settled in after a rough start to claim his seventh victory of the season. Nyquist (7-2) scattered 12 hits over 7. 2 innings of work, giving up five runs and striking out seven. Mitchell Wade, Austin Lord and Ben Lumsden combined to shut down the Bulldogs over the final 1.1 frames to seal the win.
“Samford came out and hit us in the mouth, but Eric responded and gave us seven strong innings,” said head coach Craig Gibson. “There is a lot on the line this weekend with two great clubs and we were able to win the opener. To enter a new league and have a chance to win it in your first year is special and I think is something the guys will remember for the rest of their lives, however, we have to get ready for two more tough games ahead of us this weekend.”
Samford (28-23, 13-9 SoCon) got off to fast start, collecting four straight singles to jump out to an early 2-0 lead. However, Nyquist struck out three straight batters to escape further damage and the end the inning.
The Bears matched Samford with two runs in the home half of the inning, as their first two batters reached base to set up back-to-back RBIs from Kyle Lewis and Danny Edgeworth to tie the game, 2-2.
Both pitchers buckled down over the next three innings though, as they combined to strand nine runners during that stretch to maintain a 2-2 tie. However, Mercer broke through in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Bonin and Lewis led off the inning with back-to-back singles, before Jackson Ware was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Nate Moorhouse gave the Bears their first lead of the game moments later, drawing a bases-loaded walk for a 3-2 advantage. Howard Joe plated Lewis for the second run of the frame, before Madden’s two-run single pushed the lead to 6-2.
Samford cut the lead to three, 6-3, in the top of the sixth, as Frankie Navarrete’s sacrifice fly plated Danny Rodriguez.
The Bears responded in the home half though, as Lewis hit his SoCon-leading 15th home run of the season, a two-run shot, to push the lead to 8-3. Mercer’s offense was not done however, adding three insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh. Madden and Matt Meeder each drove in a run on suicide squeezes, before Bonin plated Trey Truitt with his third hit of the night for an 11-3 advantage.
Samford scored two runs in the top of the seventh on Damon Waller’s two-run home run to trim the deficit to six, but Madden outdid him in the bottom of the frame with a three-run home run to straight-away center field to close out the scoring in the 14-5 triumph.
The Bears can claim the outright SoCon regular season with a win against Samford tomorrow night. Prior to the start of that contest, Mercer recognize its nine-man senior class. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.