Over the past two seasons Mercer's Brandon Love has made three appearances on the Dugan Field pitching mound. At the conclusion of all three trips to said mound, Love received the traditional postgame handshakes as the winning pitcher.
Wednesday's win, a 6-4 decision against Kennesaw State extended the Bears' recent run of team success on the Dugan Diamond. While Love improved to 3-0 at Dugan Field, the Bears own seven wins in their last eight contests at Lipscomb. They won the 2010 A-Sun Championship with a 4-0 record and they won last year's series against the Bisons by a 2-1 margin.
"It was huge for us to get a great start from [Brandon]" Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said. "He got in a little trouble early, but to his credit he settled in gave us another great outing. He's been good for two years and if we're going to have a chance to win this thing, you've got to have some great individual performances."
Last year, Love pitched the Bears into the title game by shutting down the potent ETSU offense. Over eight innings of work, he allowed only one unearned run. He spoke of the difference between regular-season outings and postseason starts.
"When everyone in the dugout is behind you, it's really to disappoint them," Love said. "You're out there battling for everyone else and luckily we got a win tonight. These games [have] much more energy. Everyone is ready to bring it and you really don't want to fall into that loser's bracket."
The Bears hope Love's start further continues to follow the similar path the 2010 Championship team established. Last year's team entered the tournament by winning 13 of their final 16 before rattling off the four straight wins. This year, they closed with 12 wins in their final 15 games. By beating the Owls, the Bears draw the opponent they had to beat twice during the 2010 Championship, Jacksonville, in a matchup of two Wednesday winners.
"We came into this tournament again hot and the team chemistry, we haven't missed a bit from last year," Love said. "I think this is real special group."