Sports Reporter / Columnist
Onwards and upwards is certainly the catchphrase for Mercer’s baseball team as the new season draws ever closer and they look to clinch their fifth-straight Atlantic Sun Championship appearance.
Having finished with a 23-23 overall record last year, the Bears will be looking to post a positive winning percentage, particularly in the all-important Conference games which begin against Campbell in March.
In terms of the 2010 roster, head coach Craig Gibson returns no less than 20 letter-winners including all-star senior pitcher Lath Guyer whose venomous throwing arm could prove to be a crucial part of Mercer’s armory.
Six freshmen also join the squad to provide cover and will become more and more useful as the notoriously grueling season wears on.
The Bears were picked to finish in a two-way tie for sixth place in the annual Atlantic Sun Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
Traditional heavyweights Florida Gulf Coast were picked as the preseason and tournament champions with 10 of a possible 11 first-place votes. Intriguingly, it was Mercer who clinched the only other first-place vote.
FGCU also roundly swept the individual preseason honors with junior Zach Maxfield being awarded Player of the Year and talented junior Chris Sale being the unanimous selection for Pitcher of the Year.
Defending A-Sun champions Jacksonville, who knocked-off Belmont in last year’s Championship final, were picked to finish second in the poll. The Bears tied for sixth place with Lipscomb.
Mercer kicks off its season on February 19, as it hosts Morehead State at Claude Smith Field.
The Eagles, who hail from Kentucky, finished third in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2009 with a 12-10 record. This is the first time the two teams have met in recent memory.
“We are all very excited to come out here and start playing,” coach Gibson said. “Our guys worked very hard over the winter in both the weight room and the cages and we look forward to getting after it over these next few weeks.”
Make sure you pick up the next edition of The Cluster for all the news and views from the opening games of the season.