The returning conference player of the year, who was also this years preseason player of the year, was batting around .200, the speedy leadoff hitter was still out with a hamstring, and one the top relievers in the South had yet to throw a pitch.
Then Mercer came back to beat Evansville 6-5 on Sunday, and one of those situations drastically changed.
Chesny Young pulled his average up more than 100 points in a day with a 4-for-5 afternoon Sunday, keying the Bears win. Relief ace Dimitri Kourtis still hasnt pitched, and left fielder Nate Moorhouse hasnt played since Feb. 16. And Mercer is still 8-0.
The pitching has really been good, Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said. Thats been the thing. To survive the start without the closer, who hasnt thrown one pitch yet, is a little surprising.
Kourtis is battling inflammation in his shoulder but should be back in about a week, along with Moorhouse. Youngs health (back and shoulder) also has improved.
Mercer is one of 15 unbeaten teams left in Division I baseball, joining the likes of South Carolina, LSU, Florida State and Southern Cal. The Bears are No. 1 in Warren Nolans RPI, the only currently active major list, and have the No. 3 strength of schedule.
Mercer hosts Savannah State on Tuesday and Georgia Southern on Wednesday to end the season-opening, 10-game homestand. The Bears start an eight-game road stretch Friday at Belmont, followed by midweek games at Florida A&M and then a series next weekend at Auburn.
The Bears then arent home again until Butler visits March 11 for the first of two. Then Kennesaw State opens A-Sun play March 14 at Mercer.
Sasha LaGardes start hasnt been necessarily a surprise, but its a bit better than expected. The senior from Canada moved to leadoff after Moorhouse went down and is batting .375 with team highs of four homers and 12 RBI.
Any time you can put a guy at the top with power, it scares you, Gibson said. Its hard to find guys like that, can hit the ball 400 feet and bunt for a base hit. Theres not a lot of guys that can do it.
Nick Backlund has just two home runs, but hes batting .467 with an on-base percentage of .568.
I mean, hes just a monster, said Gibson, then citing a player he saw Saturday night at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Hes Frank Thomas, a guy with power that also hits for average.
The pitching staff, with some preseason shuffling, is cruising, as well. First-year starter Eric Nyquist is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA, and the Bears have gotten quality relief efforts from, among others, Morgan Pittman, Ben Lumsden and Stephen Glaze. That trio has combined for 18-1/3 innings, 21 strikeouts and nine walks (none by Pittman), and opponents are batting .167 against them.
Glaze has really been good for us, Gibson said of the pitcher with the least experience of that threesome. His breaking ball is similar to Cory Gearrins, its just that good. Oh yeah. Hes really tough on right-handers.
Savannah State is 3-4, with wins over Chicago State and Kennesaw State and losses to Presbyterian, Georgia State and Chicago State. The Tigers have won three of their past four, winning the series against Chicago State after topping Kennesaw State 7-5 on the road.
Savannah State, which lost 6-2 and 18-3 last year to Mercer, reached the NCAA tournament last year, losing 10-0 to Florida State and 3-2 to Alabama in the Tallahassee Regional.
Theyre a good club, man, Gibson said. (Head coach Carlton Hardy) has done a really good job down there. Theyre solid, and he can really coach.
Hardy moved catcher Kevin Herlihy to the bullpen, and Gibson said Herlihy had one of the best arms behind the plate he has seen in years. Georgia Southern is off to a 7-1 start overall and is 3-1 against state teams.
The Eagles opened the season with a 9-3 win over Georgia and then split the next two. But Georgia Southern outscored Georgia 30-18 in the three-game series. Georgia Southern then nipped Georgia Tech 4-3, part of the six-game winning streak the Eagles will bring to Claude Smith Field.
Stryker Brown is the reigning Southern Conference player of the week. The senior outfielder batted .412 with a pair of homers and 10 RBI, including a first-inning grand slam against Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Theyre gonna be good every year, said Gibson, whose team split with the Eagles last year. And theyre good again.
LaGarde takes A-Sun honor
Returning to the top of the order while Nate Moorhouse recovers from a hamstring injury certainly agrees with Sasha LaGarde.
The Mercer senior outfielder helped the Bears go 5-0 to earn his first A-Sun player of the week honor Monday.
LaGarde hit .455 with four multi-hit games. He belted three homers and drove in 10 runs while scoring 10. He had his first two-homer game in last Tuesdays 12-4 win over Florida A&M.