DELAND, Fla. – The Mercer baseball season ended on a sour note as the Bears dropped a heartbreaker to regular-season champion and host Stetson, 2-1, in 11 innings on Friday at Melching Field.
Mercer (33-25) squandered a golden opportunity in the top of the 11th, loading the bases with one out and Mike Armstrong at the plate. The junior first baseman skied a ball to center field. Shane Jordan caught it and gunned out pinch-runner Richard Bentley at the plate for an inning-ending double play.
Stetson took advantage of that momentum as Jordan led off the bottom of the 11th with a double and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Casey Frawley. Following two straight intentional walks to load the bases, Adam Tindle’s sacrifice fly scored Jordan as John Dortch’s throw from foul territory in right field was just late to end the game.
For the second consecutive day, Mercer found themselves in a pitchers' dual in the early going. Bears’ starter Boone Webster limited Stetson to no runs and one hit through three frames and Hatters’ right-hander Jake Hitchcock tossed shutout, two-hit ball in the first four innings.
Webster kept the Bears in the game tossing five strong innings while allowing one run on five hits. The junior struck out three and walked a pair. Right-hander Justin Boyette (4-4) gave Mercer four innings of stellar no-hit, shutout relief before allowing the winning run to score.
Hitchcock was extremely impressive, going a career-high 9 2/3 innings and gave up only one run on three hits. The sophomore hurler fanned six and walked three batters. Justin Dechert (6-2) earned the win with 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, including wiggling his way out of the extra-inning jam.
Stetson (41-18) opened the scoring in the contest with a fourth-inning run. With a runner at third base and one out, Adam Tindle notched a run-scoring single through the right side of the infield.
As they have all season and tournament long, the Bears battled back to tie the game at 1 in the fifth.With one out, Steve Karwatt and Casey Stuart registered back-to-back singles. On the latter base knock, Karwatt used some aggressive base running to take third and Stuart moved to second on the throw. Michael Langley then did his job with an RBI ground-out to score Karwatt.
With the loss, Mercer’s season ends, but the future looks bright as the Bears garnered back-to-back 30-win seasons for the first time since 1981 and 1982.