Consistency wasn’t where it needed to be at times for the Mercer baseball team’s pitching staff last year. But the leader of the Bears’ staff said this year’s group has been focused on changing that.
Mercer opens its season at 4 p.m. on Friday at Maryland-Eastern Shore at OrthoGeorgia Park.
“We just want to improve our consistency. Pitchers were very up and down,” senior Ryan Askew said of last year. “We’d have one really good game and one game where we’d give up like 12 runs, so we want to be more consistent as a pitching staff.”
The staff’s success starts with Askew, who was named to the All-Southern Conference preseason team. Askew finished 6-3 with a 3.90 ERA last season, while Kevin Coulter was 8-3 as a freshman and Robert Broom was 4-3 as one of the nation’s top relievers. On Monday, Broom was named to the watch list for the 13th annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball.
Connor Herd was the third starter last season and is back for his junior season. The staff also returns sophomores Austin Cox, Nick Spear and Taylor Lobus, among others.
“We want to pitch and play defense. I think that’s how you win championships,” Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said. “I know you’re going to score some runs, but when you get in the regionals, you’ve got to win that 2-1, 1-0 game. You’ve got to have somebody go out there and shut somebody down, and you’ve got to make plays, and that’s what we’ve been able to do here.”
Askew is confident the Bears will continue to do just that, and he points to the offseason as proof. Mercer just missed out on a second straight NCAA Tournament berth last season.
“Austin Cox is one specific example. He came back from the summer just ready to go,” Askew said of the former FPD standout. “Nick Spear, Austin Cox, Taylor Lobus, Kevin Coulter, all these freshmen, (Robert) Broom, they’re all ready to go. Everybody came back working that much harder because I think it left us with a bad taste in our mouth last year. I haven’t really had to do anything as far as motivating these guys. All these guys are very self driven, and they do it on their own.”