It was an exciting game for the fans, even if you weren’t cheering for the Mercer Bears or ETSU Buccaneers, but a little hard on the coaches.
Mercer jumped out to a 6-3 lead in the first three innings Thursday night against ETSU in the Atlantic Sun Baseball Championship. ETSU scored four runs over the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to take a 7-6 lead. But Mercer bounced back in the final two innings to add four runs and held on for a 10-7 win.
“The momentum kept shifting back and forth,” Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said. “We have a little maturity on our team. I always tell our guys you are not a great club until you can come from behind and we were able to do that.
“It was great to be a part of it. It got a little nerve-wracking in this dugout. We were sorry before the game that we were the visitors. I thought it could go that way where we had to battle back. It just happened to be our night.”
Each team had 17 hits with a combined eight doubles, two triples and three home runs.
Mercer is the only remaining unbeaten team in the tournament being held at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium on the campus of Lipscomb University in Nashville.
The Bears will get a late wake-up call Friday since they will not play until 7 p.m., facing the winner of the 11 a.m. game between ETSU and FGCU.
“ETSU is a great club,” Gibson said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they battle back and we meet them again. I love great competition. That is what the Atlantic Sun is all about.
“We have been pretty good at the end of games. J.T. Odom, David Teasley and Lath Guyer have been pretty good for us. Generally, when we have held the lead late we have had success.”
This was the fourth time Mercer and ETSU have met this season. It was also the fourth time Mercer has scored in double figures against ETSU with 10 runs in a 13-10 loss April 16 and 11 runs in each game (22-6, 11-5) of a doubleheader sweep April 17, all in Johnson City.
“It seems like whenever we get together they are high-scoring games for whatever reasons,” Gibson said. “We are two good offensive clubs. Every time we play ETSU we fight, fight and fight.”
“It was great competition and a great environment for college baseball here at Lipscomb. I hope the fans enjoyed it.”
In the eighth senior Tyler McCarty singled home the tying run followed by junior Thomas Carroll who drove in what proved to be the game-winning run with a double to right center, his second hit of the game. Carroll scored the ninth run of the game when he was driven home by a single from senior Michael Langley.
Carroll entered the tournament batting .314 for the season with 56 runs batted in. He has played the season in the shadows of junior John Moreland and sophomore Jacob Tanis who each hit 20 home runs during the regular season.
“Thomas was good tonight,” Gibson said. “He is kind of the unsung hero of this group.
“He doesn’t get a lot of notoriety because of the two 20-home run guys. But I always say that Thomas is the guy who will get you the big hit when you need it and he came through.”
Carroll admits that for the past two or three weeks he has not been as sharp as he
would like to be at the plate, but got back into a hitting groove at a great time for the Bears.
“I’m fine being the unsung hero,” Carroll said. “I’ve had confidence in my abilities the whole year. Our team is going to have confidence in whoever is up in that situation.
“I had been struggling lately. I got a hit in the third so I was able to be more relaxed. I knew it was going to take a situation like the one in the eighth to get me out of my funk. I knew I was going to come around eventually. I’m glad it came around in a big situation.”