Saturday, February 20, 2010
Mercer Softball Starts the Season with a Bang!
J. Andrew Lockwood
Senior Editor / Columnist
Mercer softball’s quest for an Atlantic Sun Championship and NCAA tournament berth began last week with the team’s season opening tournament in Tallahassee. Playing as a visitor in the host Florida State’s tournament, the Bears picked up an early 8-0 victory over Iona before falling victim to Conference USA’s Southern Miss twice 9-1 and 2-1. Florida State then proceeded to eke out a win over Mercer 2-1 in the tournament finale.
Head coach Mike Raynor’s team then traveled back home to the friendly confines of Sikes Field to take on South Dakota State in a doubleheader home opener. Winning both games 2-1 and 7-1 pulled Mercer back up to the .500 for the season and continued their winning ways at home. Last year, the Bears sported a 21-6 record at home and look to do the same if not better this season with nineteen home games on the schedule.
Mercer 8 – Iona 0
Waiting an extra day to play their first game of the season due to inclement weather in north Florida, Mercer looked impressive in the five inning affair against the Gaels. Junior Jenni Holtz was once again dominate from the circle, giving up only three hits in the complete game shutout while striking out nine batters and throwing an unheralded 64 pitches.
The Bears broke the game open in the 2nd inning when Sara Stukes doubled to left center field, eventually scoring on a passed ball. Pinch runner Stephanie Canara then proceeded to score off of another passed before Megan Rutherford tallied Mercer’s first RBI of the year in sending Amanda Santa Maria home off of a single. Mercer would score one more in the fourth inning and four runs in the fifth to quickly end the contest.
Sara Stukes proved to be the team’s most legitimate threat at the plate during the game, batting 2-for-2 with a pair of RBI and a walk.
Southern Miss 4 – Mercer 3
Playing the Golden Eagles, a team that had just defeated #19 Florida State the night before, Mercer would come up on the short end of a hard fought game. Call it bad luck or fate, but a crucial hit from shortstop Sara Stukes that ripped down the right field line got stuck underneath a tarp, halting baserunner Allison Jones at third base. Jones would most likely have scored on the play in the seventh inning, at least putting the Bears up 4-3 at that point in the game.
However, Southern Miss was able to put a big run across the plate in the bottom of the seventh to win the game and hand the Bears there first loss of the year. Kari Chambers, the starting pitcher for Mercer, only surrendered one run and three hits in 2.1 innings while Jenni Holtz netted the loss after allowing three runs in four innings.
Southern Miss 9 – Mercer 1
After a close game on Saturday night, Sunday’s game was anything but close as the Eagles handed the Bears their second loss of the season in five innings. Mercer would put the first run on the board in the second inning off of a Stacey Condra single, but Southern Miss would quickly end the Bears hopes of an upset as they would score three runs off of a RBI double from Logan James and a left field home run from Alexis Hurley in the bottom of the fourth inning. The fifth inning was even worse for Mercer as the Eagles would run rule the bears as the plated six runs in the bottom half of the inning.
For the game, Mercer would only muster three hits as Natalie Jones would record the loss in her first appearance in 2010. Southern Miss’s Courtney Ramos earned her third win as the Golden Eagles improved to 4-0.
Florida State 2 – Mercer 1
Another bid for a major upset fell apart in the seventh inning as Florida State sneaked across a late run for the final tournament victory. The Bears again took an early game lead off of a Sara Stukes single to the left side of the infield in the fifth inning, but the Seminoles would soon respond with an inside-the-park homerun in the bottom half to tie the game. The game remained knotted at 1-1 until the bottom of the seventh inning when a pair of hits scored the winning run for the ACC school.
Mercer starting pitcher Jenni Holtz pitched another solid game, surrendering seven hits and one earned run in six innings of work, but would tally the loss to fall to 1-2. While FSU’s Sarah Hamilton pitched all but one out of the game, closer Terese Gober secured the game and collected the win.
Mercer 2 – South Dakota State 1
After a tough opening season tournament in Tallahassee, pitcher Jenni Holtz looked dominate again at home, striking out 13 batters and giving up only two hits and a run in her second win of the season. Anna Johnson would score the first run for the Bears from the leadoff position in the third inning however, the Jackrabbits didn’t go away easily as Marlee Peterson homered to left center field to tie the game at 1-1 in the sixth.
Emi Sherrill would score the winning run after reaching base on error in the bottom half of the inning to give Mercer the final advantage in their home opener.
Mercer 7 – South Dakota State 1
The nightcap of the doubleheader saw much more offensive output from the Bears as starting pitcher Kari Chambers earned her first win of the season after the complete game in which she struck out 10 batters and gave up 9 hits.
Holly Oglesbee and Sara Stukes launched a pair of homeruns in the second inning to put the game out of reach quickly. Oglesbee would finish the game 1-for-2 with 3 RBIs and a run.