- J. Andrew Lockwood -
Senior Editor of The Bear Zone/ Sports Columnist
Maybe it was the threatening rain or just the fact that Mercer was playing its first game in nearly three weeks, but the Bears looked sluggish late in Friday night's affair with ETSU. The Bucs (12-11, 5-7) ended up taking two of the game series at Claude Smith Field Friday night and Sunday afternoon, winning 6-3 and 12-8. Mercer's lone win came during the late game Sunday afternoon as the offense cranked out 10 runs in the 10-5 victory.
Mercer (8-12, 4-5) has had trouble early in the 2009 campaign of putting consistent hitting and pitching together during the same game. Senior Lath Guyer (0-2) pitched well into the sixth inning Friday night, retiring 11 batters in a row at one point, but the offense suffered. Sophomore Joey Winker had a home run during the first inning, his third of the season and the Bears scored two more during the second stanza, but fell silent from the plate for the duration of the game. "We didn't put our hits together tonight," said long-time head coach Craig Gibson. He went on to add after the game, "Lath has been at least this good every outing this year. Offensively, we need to be better. We need to score more than three runs at home."
Although Mercer's bats were silent, credit ETSU pitcher Ben Andrews (1-1) for stifling the bears during the first game, pitching 7.1 innings and striking out 5 batters.
After heavy rain cancelled the doubleheader Saturday, both teams resumed action Sunday as the Bucs picked up where they left off, scoring 4 runs in the first inning and 5 in the fourth inning. ETSU's small ball approach helped them jump out to an early lead to start of the game and then a Troy Mendez grand-slam over the right field wall all but sealed the game. Mendez would go on to have a career afternoon, going 4-6 from the plate with 7 RBI and 2 runs during the first contest.
Mercer answered back with a Steven Karwatt grand-slam in the sixth inning, but the effort was too little to crawl back within reach of the Bucs. Five different pitchers saw action on the mound for the Bears as Dan April (1-3) recorded the loss after surrending four runs in the first inning. ETSU's Josh Gonzaga (1-2) would win his first contest of the year.
The second game Sunday was a different story though as the Bears jumped to an early lead via another Karwatt homerun during the fifth inning. Quality pitching from Justice French (1-0) helped Mercer hold off the pesky Bucs with relief coming late in the game from J.T. Odom and closer Blake Mainor.The upcoming schedule doesn't get any easier for Mercer as tough contests against Georgia Tech, Flordia Gulf Coast, and College of Charleston appear on the horizon. The Bears enjoy a five game homestand before returning on the road to face Stetson April 9-11.