DELAND, Fla. – The Mercer baseball squad showed a great amount of resiliency to pick up a first-round victory over Gardner-Webb on Wednesday at Melching Field. The Bears used an eighth-inning run to defeat the Bulldogs, 5-4.
A pair of Bears came off the bench late in the game in helping Mercer earn the first-round win. With the game tied at 4, John Dortch, who was inserted into the contest in the seventh frame, led off the bottom of the eighth with a double and advanced to third on Billy Shaughnessy’s sacrifice bunt. Pinch hitter Casey Stuart then delivered a nicely-executed suicide squeeze to score Dortch.
Cory Gearrin (4-2) picked up the win, recording the final four outs. Dawgs’ reliever Webster Beal (1-7) was tagged with the loss after surrendering the go-ahead run.
Right-hander Brantley New did not have his best command, but was a workhorse on the mound for Mercer. The second team all-conference selection tossed 7 1/3 innings and gave up four runs, two of which were earned, on five hits. The senior ace struck out four and issued six free passes.
Steve Karwatt and Eric Renfroe each recorded a clutch two-out RBI in the game. Karwatt finished the contest 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, and Renfroe went 2-for-3 with one run batted in.
The Bulldogs took an early 1-0 lead courtesy of two Mercer errors in the third inning. Nate McDonald took advantage of the miscues with an RBI single scoring speedster Jamall Kinard.
The Bears bounced right back to knot up the score at 1 in their half of the third. With runners at second and third base and one out, Josh Thompson delivered a sacrifice fly, driving in his team-high 50th run this season.
In the fifth frame, Gardner-Webb notched its second unearned run of the game and regained the lead. With Nate McDonald at second base and two outs, third baseman Steve Karwatt air-mailed a throw to first base allowing McDonald to cross the plate.
Mercer answered back again in the bottom of the sixth, tying the score at two. Karwatt led off the inning with a base hit and, three batters later, Renfroe picked up a big two-out RBI, scoring Karwatt.
The Bears took their first lead of the game in the sixth inning garnering a 4-2 advantage. Mike Armstrong registered a lead-off single and Billy Shaughnessy advanced the junior to third with a base hit through the left side of the infield. With two outs, Karwatt made amends for his error earlier in the contest with a clutch run-scoring single. On the play, GWU left fielder Daniel Cooke’s throw rolled past catcher Jay McConnell and, as Shaughnessy was rounding third, he made a heads-up play coming around to score when McConnell was unable to grasp the ball.
Right-hander Jonathan Ban pitched well for the second time this season against the Bears allowing four runs, three earned, on eight hits while striking out four and walking one.
Mercer will take on the winner of No. 3 Belmont and No. 4 Jacksonville at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 24.