MACON, Ga. – On the strength of 12 unanswered runs in the fifth and sixth inning, respectively, Mercer turned a two-run deficit into a 15-6 Atlantic Sun win over the FGCU baseball team on Friday night in the series opener between the conference’s two preseason favorites.
The Eagles, who entered the game with wins in five of their last six games, drop to 7-6 overall and 2-2 in the A-Sun. Mercer improves to 12-3 and 3-1 in the league heading into game two Saturday at 6 p.m.
The top hitting team in the A-Sun over the opening weeks of the season, Mercer pounded out 16 hits off of seven different FGCU pitchers. The Bears entered the game with a league-high 65 extra-base hits, including 29 home runs, but were limited to two doubles and one home run.
On the flipside, the Eagles got good production from the bottom of its lineup during its nine-hit evening. Freshmen Brandon Bednar (Stuart, Fla./South Fork HS) and Jake Foley (Punta Gorda, Fla./Charlotte HS), batting eighth and ninth in the lineup, respectively, went a combined 4-for-6 with five runs scored. Foley’s 2-for-2 night featured three runs scored and his second career double. Bednar’s third career multi-hit game also saw the right fielder score twice.
Senior Michael Alvarez (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS), who ranks second all-time in program history with 260 hits, produced his 80th career multi-hit game to round out the offensive stars for FGCU. Alvarez drove in three runs during his 2-for-3 night.
Preseason A-Sun Pitcher of the Year Riche Erath (West Palm Beach, Fla./Palm Beach Central HS) returned to his role as the Friday starter and suffered his first loss to fall to 1-1. Erath gave up two in the first before going three straight innings without allowing a run. Three runs in the fifth knocked Erath off the mound after 4.1 innings in which he gave up eight hits and struck out four.
Six more pitchers took the mound to close out the last 4.2 innings for the Blue and Green. Sophomore lefty R.J. Brown (Brandon, Fla./Bloomingdale HS) was the only reliever to last over an inning, as he closed the final two frames with two strikeouts.
Mercer starter Matt McCall, who entered with a 1.35 ERA, lasted just four full innings, giving up five runs on six hits.
FGCU got to McCall in the third and fifth innings, plating five runs over the two at-bats to erase an early 2-0 deficit. Bednar and Foley sparked the third inning with a single and double to lead off the inning before coming home on an RBI groundout by senior Stephen Wickens (Whitby, Ontario/Sinclair Secondary) and a sac fly from Alvarez.
The fifth inning started the same way for the Blue and Green, as Bednar and Foley got on base to lead off and were followed by a walk to Wickens to load the bases with no outs. Alvarez then ripped an RBI single into right field that scored Bednar from third and Foley from second on a throwing error by the right fielder. A lineout by senior Zach Maxfield (North Port, Fla./North Port HS/Pasco-Hernando CC) to center field drove in the third run of the fifth and extended FGCU lead to 5-2. The RBI was Maxfield’s team-best 12th.
FGCU’s momentum was quickly put to a halt when the Bears changed the game and took lead for good with five runs in the bottom half of the fifth. Mercer then put the game away with seven more runs in the sixth to pump their lead up to 14-5.
Mercer’s Matt Teasley earned the win on the mound, going three innings of relief to improve to 3-1 on the season. The Bears’ bullpen went five strong innings, giving up one run on three hits.