TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Mercer baseball head coach Craig Gibson was looking forward to seeing how his team would respond to playing in one of the best settings in college baseball.
He liked what he saw, despite the outcome.
The Bears went toe to toe with No. 1 seed Florida State on Friday night at Dick Howser Stadium in the NCAA tournament’s Tallahassee Regional but dropped a 5-4 loss in the 10th inning.
“I thought it was a great baseball game in a great environment. It was fun and great to be part of it,” Gibson said. “That’s a great baseball team that we played. They put a lot of pressure on you, and they have really great arms out of the pen. They’re really tough. We had a couple of chances early and couldn’t cash in.
“I thought it was a great baseball game and a great environment.”
The Seminoles (42-19) pulled it out in the 10th in front of a large and loud home crowd after a leadoff single by Ben DeLuzio and then an error by Bears catcher Charlie Madden. A perfect sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third with one out, setting up Josh Delph, who came through with the game-winning single to right field for his second walk-off hit of the season.
The two teams looked like they were headed to a slugfest early as both starting pitchers -- Mercer’s DJ Johnson and Florida State’s Mike Compton -- struggled.
Mercer (35-22) jumped on top with a run in the second aided by two Florida State errors, but the Seminoles scored four runs in their half of the inning, stringing together four hits.
The Bears bounced right back in the third with three runs after Kyle Lewis opened the inning with a one-hop double off the center-field wall.
“I was really proud of how we handled (the atmosphere),” Lewis said. “Coming in, we didn’t know what it was going to be like. We knew it was going to be sold out, but everybody was really relaxed, more relaxed than I expected us to be. I’m just proud of the way we came in and battled. We knew it was going to be a battle coming in, but we were right there.”
Things settled down after the third as the two bullpens took over.
Mercer’s Morgan Pittman and Mitchell Wade combined for 4-2/3 scoreless innings of relief, while Dimitri Kourtis came on in the eighth to get the Bears out of the inning and pitched a scoreless ninth before being tagged with the winning run in the 10th. Dylan Silva got Florida State out of a first-and-third jam with no outs in the sixth, including an interference call on the Bears on the base paths that led to a double play.
“I thought it was the right call, but it was just at an unfortunate time for us,” Gibson said.
Madden led the Bears with three hits, while Matt Meeder, Danny Edgeworth and Nate Moorhouse each had two. The Bears outhit the Seminoles 12-9 but surrendered seven walks and committed five errors, including three by Edgeworth.
Mercer will play Auburn at noon on Saturday in an elimination game, while Florida State will play College of Charleston.
“We feel good. We played well, and we think we’re going to bounce back strong,” Madden said. “We feel confident. We only lost one game, and we won the four before this, so we just have to be upbeat and confident.”
Ace Eric Nyquist should give the Bears some confidence as he is scheduled to start Saturday’s game.
“Eric will give us a great start. We held him off and gave him an extra day’s rest,” Gibson said. “He has pitched on short rest the last two or three times, so he will be ready to go (Saturday).”
The Bears dropped to 1-5 in their third NCAA appearance and have lost their past four tournament games.
“We’re ready to win a couple,” Gibson said. “We were disappointed we didn’t win (Friday). I fully expected us to have a chance to win, but if we get a couple of hits early, we probably don’t go to extra innings. But that’s a great baseball team.
“We have been here enough; it’s time for us to win some of these.”