NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Following his team’s 7-5 opening round victory against UNF, ETSU head coach Tony Skole immediately turned his thoughts to the next challenge; slowing down the only other team in this year’s tournament field with as much offensive firepower as his Buccaneers.
The second-seeded Mercer Bears await ETSU on day two of the 2010 Atlantic Sun Baseball Championship, and after their 10-1 beating of Jacksonville to open the tournament, have won 14 of their last 17 contests. Blazing bats deserve the lion’s share of the credit for the Bears streak, just as the Bucs’ offensive prowess powered them to their highest tournament seeding since 1992.
The two squads rank one-two among the tournament field in slugging percentage, on base percentage, hits, runs, RBI and home runs. Mercer took two-of-three from the Bucs during the regular season in a series that saw the teams combine for 56 runs.
“Mercer is the hottest team in the league right now,” Skole said. “They put a lot of pressure on you at all nine positions in the lineup. They’re well-coached, and have great hitters up and down their order.”
Since joining the Atlantic Sun in 2006, the Bucs are just 4-12 against Mercer, including an 11-3 defeat to open the 2006 tournament. Neither team has won their first two postseason games in more than a decade (Mercer 1999, ETSU 1992), so the Bucs will be attempting to buck both recent and longstanding history Thursday night.
“Mercer has had our number for sure,” said Skole. “Now we’re in the tournament though, and we don’t have to win a series against them; we just have to win once. I like the energy and passions our guys are bringing to the ballpark, and this team can hit all speeds, they put the ball in play and they find ways to score.”
Skole already picked up one big win against the Bears in the tournament: immediately following the UNF game, he won a coin toss with the Bears allowing his squad to be the designated home team tomorrow night. In a game with two explosive offenses, having the luxury of the last at bat may be the Bucs’ biggest win of the week.