Through Mercer's four games at the 2011 Atlantic Sun Championship the pitcher to have logged the most innings was not one of their four starting pitchers, but rather their sidearmed slinger J.T. Odom.
The Bears' senior closer has pitched in all four contests, working a total of 8 2/3 innings. In those innings he has struck out nine against only three hits and one walk. He has earned the save in all Mercer victories. However, one of those hits proved to be the deciding home run in their one loss - a loss that came early Friday afternoon.
"[After the Belmont loss] we just got on the bus and I just buried my head in my hotel bed to try and clear my head," the senior said. "I just tried to get ready for the next game because I knew I would probably [be] a big part in the outcome. I couldn't think any more about that game. I honestly had to pretend like that game didn't even happen."
Odom only had a few hours to forget that pitch as he was asked to face the league's top player, Adam Brett Walker while protecting a narrow 1-0 advantage in the eighth inning. Although Walker won that battle with a single, Odom again found himself on the mound recording the 27th out of the contest as he stepped on first receiving a toss from John Moreland to close the first 1-0 A-Sun Championship in 164 tournament games.
"He's been so good for us, his numbers are unbelievable - his strikeout to base-on-ball ratio (71-7 after Friday) is probably one of the top in the country," Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said. "[Belmont] got some good swings on him this morning, but he had success against [Jacksonville] a couple days ago so we wanted to run him out there again tonight."
With all the success Odom has enjoyed in 2011, Gibson has had to hold back on using him too much.
"I'll be honest, I want to start him," Gibson said with wide smile. "He's a guy that just goes - and this may be his last baseball - but he's going to give us everything he has and is going to leave everything between the lines for us. I'm kind of selfish...I want to use him all the time."
Mercer recently saw a former Bear, Cory Gearrin reach the majors with the Atlanta Braves. During this year, Gibson starting referring to Odom as "Gearrin" and Odom has backed up the praise with great performances each night.
"He didn't make all-conference and we thought he was one of the better relievers in the league and now he's getting the chance to show that he is," Gibson said. "I told him that he's really pitched better than Cory for us. You know we never won a championship with Cory and J.T. has given us that chance to do it."
During the Bears' run to the title in 2010, Odom only came into one game. Even with the knowledge that last year ended with a dogpile, he admitted to feeling more involved with this run.
"I would say I feel a little more a part of this [championship]," Odom said. "I've been in every game and been a key component in every game so that's been awesome. It's going to be something I'm going to remember the rest of my life."