The Mercer baseball team was denied the Southern Conference Tournament title and an automatic NCAA Tournament bid Sunday, losing 4-2 and 3-2 to Western Carolina in the championship round of the conference tournament in Greenville, South Carolina.
Needing only one win to wrap up the title, Mercer lost the second game when reliever Conard Broom hit nine-hole batter Nobu Suzuki with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the ninth. Matt Smith came home with the championship-clinching run.
In the opener, Western Carolina scored a run in the first and added three more in the fourth. Mercer scored two runs on four hits in its half of the fourth, with Jose Hernandez’s single to right driving home both runs. But Mercer did no more offensively, stranding nine runners.
Western Carolina got strong performances from its starting pitching in both contests Sunday. Bryan Sammons went seven innings in the opener, scattering eight hits, while B.J. Nobles struck out 10 and allowed just one earned run in 8-2/3 innings in the second game.
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Josh Knies was the Game 1 losing pitcher for Mercer, while starter Ryan Askew took the Game 2 loss despite working into the ninth inning before giving way to Broom.
Western Carolina homered twice in the bottom of the sixth to take a 2-1 lead in the finale, with Charlie Madden coming up with a solo shot to the left-field power alley to allow Mercer to take it to the bottom of the ninth.
With an RPI of 87, Mercer (38-23) is a longshot for an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament. That announcement comes Monday.
NCAA regional sites announced
Three sites in Florida and two in South Carolina will host NCAA Regionals later this week.
Florida, Florida State and Miami were all named NCAA Regional hosts Sunday, as were Clemson and South Carolina.
The SEC and ACC will host 13 of the 16 regional tournaments. LSU, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt are SEC hosts, while Louisville, N.C. State and Virginia are among the ACC host schools.
The other three NCAA Regional hosts are TCU, Texas Tech and Louisiana-Lafayette.