Craig Gibson won’t be alone this summer as he tries to figure out his Mercer baseball team.
Most of the Bears will likely be scratching their heads, too.
The same team that couldn’t win an A-Sun series at home ended the regular season with a complete sweep at Belmont, which started the series 18-11 at home.
And that sweep came in the same week Mercer suffered one of its most humbling losses in a long time, in the home finale, jeopardizing Mercer’s chance for a spot in the conference tournament.
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“You never know,” Gibson said. “You never know what Bears you’re going to get.”
Gibson had all of two hours of sleep upon returning home early Saturday morning before taking his son Tyler to a summer-league game in Atlanta. Reliving the weekend was his caffeine.
“I don’t sleep but about four hours a night anyway,” he said. “I’m OK.”
Mercer’s visit to Nashville, Tenn., was a memorable one with the Bears qualifying for the conference tourney with a first-day win.
“After we won game one and clinched a spot, it was still meaningful,” Gibson said. “We didn’t pack it in. Every pitch meant something, every play meant something, every at-bat meant something. We had 27 innings like that.”
The Bears survived a bases-loaded situation in the ninth to win 9-5 on Thursday, only three days after Jacksonville humbled Mercer 23-5 at Claude Smith Field.
Weather concerns changed the schedule to a Friday doubleheader, which started a few hours late because of rain.
Dan April, who struggled in short relief Thursday, gave the Bears more than six respectable innings in Friday’s first game, during which Mercer trailed 4-2, led 5-4 and then trailed 6-5 entering the ninth.
Senior Steve Karwatt, who went 5-for-5 on Friday, smacked a two-out double to score Thomas Carroll and Jacob Tanis for the lead. Then J.T. Odom retired the side in order.
In the nightcap, solo homers from Tyler McCarty and Carroll put Mercer up 4-2 in the fourth. Justice French threw seven strong innings, and Odom followed two relievers to close things with 1-1/3 innings of no-hit ball, striking out three of four batters faced.
Odom had a huge series, striking out nine and giving up one run in 5-1/3 innings to get a win and save Friday. And Karwatt went 9-for-19 with five RBI and two runs.
“(Odom) has been unbelievable,” Gibson said. “(Karwatt) has had a great senior year, he’s really played well. I’m just so happy for the guy.”
The Bears, who had 43 hits in the series, haven’t been at .500 since April 15, and that lasted two days until second-place Kennesaw State came to town and earnd a sweep. But Mercer ended the regular season winning eight of 12.
But passing .500 and having momentum entering the tournament with a team that loses just four seniors qualifies as an accomplishment.
“I told the guys at Belmont: six new starters, one returning pitcher, to get in the tournament and have some quality wins, that’s good,” Gibson said. “We fought this year. Nothing was easy.”
Sherquita Bostick and Mandy Chandler of Georgia College & State were named to the all-region team by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
That puts the heralded pair on the All-America ballot.
Bostick added region player of the year to her two Peach Belt Conference player of the year honors. The senior from Florence, S.C., hit .361 with 13 home runs and 43 RBI, scoring 56 runs.
Chandler was 27-15 with a meager 1.80 ERA. The senior struck out a PBC record 417 batters in 280-2/3 innings this year, opponents managing a .181 average. She was a second-team Daktronics All-American last season.
The Bobcats went 32-24 and made their fourth straight trip to the NCAA tournament.
In addition to Bostick and Chandler, the Bobcats lose outfielder Haley Holloway, pitcher-infielder Tonya Medders, infielder Kori Picowitz and infielder Lindsey Swanson.
FVSU PREPS FOR NCAA
Five individuals and two relay teams from Fort Valley State are finishing up workouts in preparation for the NCAA Division II track and field championships.
The three-day meet in San Angelo, Texas, starts Thursday.
Ricardo Lockette is second in the 100 meters and fourth in the 200, while Jeffery Mosely is fourth in the 100. Marquis Andrews is 18th in the 400.
That trio is on the top-seed 4x100-meter relay team, with Keon Montgomery. Andrews, Montgomery and Lockette are joined by Keon Melson on the fifth-seeded 4x400 relay team.
Mosley finished eighth last year in the 100, and the 4x400 team — which included Andrews and Montgomery — was fifth.
Sophomores Antionette Oglesby and Kiana Key qualfied in two events each for the women.
Oglesby is second in the triple jump and 14th in the long jump, while Key is 15th in the 100 hurdles and 10th in the triple jump.
Oglesby finished second in the triple jump last year and fifth in the long jump, propelling her to All-America honors.
MERCER READY FOR BIG AUCTION
The Grand Opera House is home to Mercer’s annual “Big Auction” to raise money for the school’s athletics program.
The auction will be May 28, with silent items up for bid from noon to 7 p.m. and the live auction starting at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.
Among the items: trips to Mexico, Hilton Head, St. Simons and Tybee Island, among other destinations; a 50-inch plasma television; memorabilia signed by Jeff Francoeur, Mark Richt, Phil Niekro and others; golf at assorted Southeast courses; tickets to the Georgia National Fair, Atlanta Braves games, the Atlanta-Washington NFL game on Nov. 8.
There will be a reverse raffle with a $10,000 prize. Only 300 tickets, at $100 per ticket, will be sold, and a ticket admits two people to the hospitality area.
DEWALD, ROBINSON PICKED
GCSU relief pitcher Martin Dewald was named to the Daktronics All-Southeast Region first team while second baseman Brooks Robinson was a second-team pick.
Dewald finished the season 5-3 with 14 saves and a 4.20 ERA. He’s tied for third nationally in Division II in saves with Central Missouri’s Chris Matlock, and ended the season one short of the Peach Belt Conference record.
Robinson started at second base all season after doing the same at third last season.
He batted .330 with six home runs and 47 RBI, with a .946 fielding percentage.
Dewald becomes eligible for All-America honors with the first-team selection.
Robinson is one of only four seniors departing the 37-19 Bobcats, who reached the NCAA tournament for the eighth time overall and third time in the past four seasons.
A-Sun baseball tournament
At DeLand, Fla.
11 a.m.: No. 1 Jacksonville vs. No. 6 East Tennessee State
3 p.m.: No. 2 Lipscomb vs. No. 5 Mercer
7 p.m.: No. 3 Stetson vs. No. 4 Belmont
11 a.m.: JU-ETSU loser vs. Mercer-Lipscomb loser
3 p.m.: JU-ETSU winner vs. Stetson-Belmont loser
7 p.m.: Mercer-Lipscomb winner vs. Stetson-Belmont winner Friday Games at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
1 p.m.: Championship (second game if needed to follow) All games are available for purchase on A-Sun TV: www.asun.tv.