If there ever was a meaningless game to end a regular season, Saturday night’s Mercer-Samford contest at Claude Smith Field qualified.
A night after clinching the Southern Conference regular-season title and the top seed in the upcoming conference tournament, Mercer was blown out by Samford 17-7.
“I haven’t had many chances like this; we haven’t been in this situation,” Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said with a smile. “We got some other guys a chance to pitch, and that’s good for us. To win (the conference tournament), you’re going to have to go four or five games deep, and we’re going to need some of those other guys to pitch for us. That last six weeks, we have been leaning on six, seven and eight guys.
“(Samford is) really offensive with that lineup; they can hit. You’ve got to pitch well against these guys.”
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Mercer used nine pitchers, and they gave up 22 hits and the 17 earned runs. Samford scored six runs in the first, four in the second and then five in the eighth. The Bulldogs, who lead the nation in home runs, had five more, including three in the second.
Mercer drops to 31-21 overall and 16-15 at home. The Bears finished 16-7 in their first season in the Southern Conference and will play at 5 p.m. on Wednesday in the conference tournament in Charleston, South Carolina. Mercer will meet the winner of Tuesday’s play-in game between East Tennessee State and The Citadel. During the regular-season, the Bears swept ETSU and took two of three from The Citadel.
With the tournament split into two four-team brackets, VMI and UNC Greensboro also will be on the Bears’ side. Mercer swept VMI and lost two of three to UNC Greensboro.
“We’re excited about it, and we’re looking forward to it,” Gibson said. “This has been a great team to coach, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they can do next week.”