Mercer eyes magic 40 wins for baseball

Macon TelegraphApril 26, 2013 

                There was a reason Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast gambled a few Sundays and pushed up the series finale to 10 a.m.

                That third game was big.

                FGCU needed to get it in and win, to avoid the series sweep and help maintain its rankings in the assorted polls as well as get an RPI win.

                Mercer wanted to rack up its first Atlantic Sun series sweep of the season.

                And against the other preseason favorite, Mercer came up huge in all three phases.

                The Bears were clutch: they trailed 4-1 in the opener and then held the lead down the stretch; sophomores Dimitri Kourtis and Chesny Young were the heroes of Saturday's 10-inning 4-3 win; FGCU led 3-0 after two on Sunday, took the lead and got superb bullpen work from David Teasley, Grant Papelian and Ben Lumsden.

                The Bears pitched: FGCU managed all of 12 runs in three games. Mercer had an ERA of 4.00 in the three, a little higher than the season average, but held FGCU to about 14 percentage points below its season's batting average and had 24 strikeouts to 13 walks.

                And Mercer had one error in three  games.                                                                                                                                                  

                That's a monster weekend series against your biggest conference competition and a top 30 team.

                Mercer, as yours truly has been saying now for a few weeks (and actually wrote this almost two weeks before posting, unfortunately), is a lock for a 40-win season, very much the magic number in college baseball.

                And that's massive, because Mercer doesn't reach magic numbers too often. Mercer isn't in the conversation as getting an at-large NCAA tournament bid in anything.

                But the Bears are going to win at least 40 regular-season games.

                Now, even before getting this out, I jinxed 'em.

                Last Sunday, had a big feature on David Teasley.                                                 

                That day, he couldn't get a batter out in the series finale against Lipscomb, facing four batters: hit batter, RbI single, walk and grand slam.

                For the second time in his superb college career, Teasley didn't get a batter out. The first time was actually earlier this year against Stetson when he faced one batter and gave up an RBI single that put Stetson on top.

                And then Tuesday at Florida A&M, owner of three wins this season entering the game, he came in and ended an inning with a strikeout only to give up a triple which was followed by a run-scoring error. Then a groundout, single, double and single.


                Teasley got back on track on Wednesday, with a game-ending strikeout that stranded two runners n a 7-6 win.

                Mercer had hoped not to use Teasley so he had a chance to tie and/or break the NCAA appearances record at home, but he entered Friday's USC Upstate series opener one short of tying and two short of breaking the mark of 151 games.

                Before the two-game losing streak, Mercer was closer to getting 45 wins than just 40. And now it may be a bigger struggle to reach 40, considering the schedule still includes co-second place East Tennessee State, respectable eighth-place USC Upstate, and former conference rival and at-large candidate Belmont.

                As it is, Mercer needs a 7-4 finish to get the magic number of 40.

                The struggles have now made Mercer's at-large chances a bit harder, although reaching 40 and at least winning two A-Sun tournament games should still put the Bears at a third seed or better.

                That could make things mighty interesting if the Bears are sent to Atlanta and Georgia Tech, because Mercer is having some quality success these days against the Yellow Jackets.

                But they have to take care of business first. And business is tougher than they expected.


Rockin' in the Ville

                Georgia College is having a quality spring on the diamond.

                The baseball team entered Friday's doubleheader with Montevallo at 27-15 overall and 14-10 in Peach Belt play. The Bobcats of head coach Tom Carty went 29-21 last season, their worst under Carty. They'll better that this go round, but need a good finish to get out of seventh place.

                The top eight make the conference tournament next month at Lander.

                The softball team is back on track after a few rough seasons, even with Sunday's 12-0 loss to Columbus State in the conference tournament championship. That put the Bobcats at 36-15 and waiting for the NCAA tournament announcement and hopes for an at-large bid.

                Head coach Jamie Grodecki was 40-59 entering this season a and almost doubled her win total in a season. She's now 76-74, quite a turnaround from a 15-35 debut season.

                Georgia College is 24th nationally and seventh in the Southeast Region.


News, numbers and notes

                Mercer's softball team didn't help itself by getting swept over two weekends ago at North Florida, especially coming off of a 9-1 win over Georgia Tech.

                Of course, the Ospreys were cruising along at 33-11 at the time, so that was a tough trip from the start.

                The Bears now are 24-29 overall and 10-14 in conference play, in eighth place, behind Jacksonville (11-12) and Stetson (12-11).

                They're all but done for the A-Sun tournament, especially with the regular-season finale coming up against top-40 USC Upstate, which has clinched the first spot in the tournament and is eyeing a 40-win season.


                Fort Valley State is making little headway in replacing Lonnie Bartley has head women's basketball coach.

                Finances have been an issue at FVSU for awhile, and the school is saving money by not hiring anybody. Plus, Willie Williams is yet another interim athletics director, another position that's on hold for a permanent person.


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