MACON, Ga.—Atlantic Sun Conference leader Mercer scored two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh to rally for a 4-2 win over Stetson, Friday at Claude Smith Field.
The Hatters (20-31 overall, 9-13 A-Sun) were plagued by a season-high in runners left on base (16). Stetson out-hit Mercer, 13-6, but the Bears (36-11, 17-5) made the most of their hits while Stetson was just 4-of-17 with runners in scoring position.
The loss spoiled a strong night on the mound for the Hatters. Starting pitcher Austin Perez (1-7) took the loss despite turning in one of his best efforts of the year. The senior lefty allowed three runs on five hits in 5.2 innings, striking out four and walking one. Three relievers combined to allow one hit and strikeout three in 2.1 innings.
Stetson got on the board first, using a two-out rally in the top of the first inning to get an early 1-0 lead. Patrick Mazeika, Garrett Russini and Jordan Schulz hit consecutive two-out singles, with Schulz’s hit scoring Mazeika from second base.
Mercer’s Sahsha LaGarde tied the game with a solo home run in the bottom of the third, but Stetson came right back in the top of the fourth as Mitch Piatnik’s two-out double scored Kyle Pitts to make it 2-1.
Stetson had several opportunities to extend the lead in the middle innings, but couldn’t get the big hit. The Hatters put the lead-off batter on in the third, fourth, and fifth innings but managed just one run. In the top of the sixth, the Hatters had runners on the corners with one out, and runners at second and third with two out, but couldn’t put the ball in play.
In the bottom of the inning Mercer finally broke through against Perez, scoring a pair of runs, taking a 3-2 lead on Derrick Workman’s RBI double with two outs.
Mercer’s defense also helped keep the Hatters from having big innings. Shortstop Michael Massi took away hits from Tyler Bocock and Russini in the early innings. In the top of the seventh Stetson loaded the bases with two outs but left fielder Nate Moorehouse made a diving catch on a sinking liner by Kyle Zech, preserving Mercer’s 3-2 lead.
After Mercer stretched its lead to 4-2 with a sacrifice fly in the seventh, Stetson again loaded the bases in the top of the eighth. But once again the Hatters couldn’t get a big hit as they left the bags packed.
Stetson attempted to rally in the top of the ninth. Robert Bruce led off with a single and Zech drew a one-out walk. But Mercer closer Dimitri Kourtis struck out Fernland and Piatnik to preserve the win for the Bears.
Russini, Pitts and Piatnik each had two hits for the Hatters as every starter had at least one base hit.
Austin Lord (2-0) earned the win for Mercer, tossing one shutout inning of relief.
The Hatters and Bears resume their series at 7 p.m., Saturday.