The 2011 Atlantic Sun Conference season started off rough for Mercer with a 1-6 record in the first seven league games including sweeps at the hands of Campbell and Jacksonville to kick off the season.
However, the Bears rattled off nine wins in the final 14 games to clinch a spot in the A-Sun Championship as the five seed following a clutch sweep of Kennesaw State at home to finish off the slate.
“The start of the season had to do with us figuring out the chemistry of our team and how our team was going to play well together and who would fit into the right piece of the puzzle as we went from the start to today’s game there have been quite a few changes to our lineup,” said Mercer head coach Mike Raynor
One of those changes showed up in the tournament opener with senior pitcher Kari Chambers starting off the game and fellow senior hurler Jenni Holtz coming in to pick up her 12th win of the season by allowing no runs in four innings of work.
“For the first three years at Mercer, Jenni (Holtz) had been a starter for us and has most of the pitching records at Mercer, but she has taken on the role of a relief pitcher and she is doing an outstanding job there by giving a completely different look to opposing batters and she performed well today,” Raynor added.
Despite only averaging six hits a game in A-Sun play, Mercer’s bats were on fire to start the conference championship with nine base knocks through six innings but the Orange and Black were unable to convert by leaving 10 runners stranded on the base paths. Fortunately just like the early season start Raynor knew the team would turn it around and Tiffany Phillips did just that with a single up the middle to score Kassie Bailey and give Mercer the decisive run.
“You can get frustrated with that or you can continue to stay excited about it and I continued to stay excited because I knew if we continued to set the table with base runners eventually someone would step up and get a hit for us and fortunately Tiffany Phillips did for us.”
Mercer now gets a chance to prove they have completely solved the puzzle by facing top-seeded Jacksonville on Thursday.