Mercer falls hard to Georgia Tech

Craig Gibson channeled a former NFL head coach, going back to the well-publicized rant by ex-Arizona head football coach Dennis Green talking about the Chicago Bears a few years ago.

Mercer’s head baseball coach watched Georgia Tech for a little more than three hours and came to the same conclusion.

“They are what we thought they were,” Gibson said with a chuckle. “They didn’t surprise me. They’re that good.”

The Yellow Jackets took control with seven runs in the fourth and kept it for a 15-8 win Tuesday night over Mercer in non-conference baseball at Claude Smith Field.

Tech improved to 17-2 with its third straight win, while Mercer dropped to 14-8 after its third loss in a row.

The teams play again at 6 p.m. today at Russ Chandler Stadium in Mercer’s first game of a nine-game road trip that takes the Bears to Jacksonville, Savannah State and Florida Gulf Coast.

Pulling off an upset would have been huge for Mercer, but Gibson was happy with how his Bears responded to a big deficit and Nick Adams taking a pitch to the head.

Gibson said Adams was OK but a little groggy.

Mercer trailed 11-0 when Adams, playing in only his second game of the season because of a knee injury, took a pitch to the helmet with one out in the fifth.

The Bears woke up and sent 11 batters to the plate en route to putting five runs on the board, three coming on Jacob Tanis’ homer to left-center. Mercer ended the inning with the bases loaded, but the Bears had made it respectable.

“I thought we fought,” Gibson said. “We hit them for a five spot. We had a lot of positives the last four innings. We won the last four innings.”

Jeff Rowland and Derek Dietrich were big for Tech from the top of the lineup, combining to go 7-for-9. Rowland scored four times and Dietrich had four RBI.

The Yellow Jackets also got homers from Cole Leonida and Matt Skole.

“(Dietrich) really swung the bat well; his first two ABs (at-bats), he hit the ball about as hard as you can,” Tech head coach Danny Hall said. “(Rowland) I thought swung the bat very well the last two games against Maryland, swung the bat really well here. He’s seeing the ball really well.”

Starting pitcher Mark Pope went six innings and struck out seven for the Yellow Jackets and improved to 2-0. Russell Moses, the first of five Mercer pitchers, dropped to 0-2.

Tanis had three hits, and John Moreland and Evan Boyd each had two hits for Mercer, with Tanis and Travis Benn belting homers. Tanis drove in five runs.

The scary moment of the game came in the fifth when Adams, in only his second game of the season, took a pitch to the head from Pope. Adams sat on the dirt for about three minutes and was checked out before leaving under his own power.

“We were glad he was OK,” Hall said. “Mark came right in to make sure.”

The Yellow Jackets wasted no time in getting the lead, thanks to Rowland’s leadoff homer to right on a 2-2 pitch after fouling off a pair.

Moses settled down for an efficient second inning, but the Yellow Jackets added one in the third on Rowland’s leadoff double and Dietrich’s single to center.

Tech’s offense picked up in the fourth, ending Moses’ day in the process. Jacob Esch reached on an infield single, and Thomas Nichols followed with a bomb to dead center for a 4-0 lead. Brandon Love, Mercer’s Friday night starter, lasted three batters and gave way to sidearming right-hander David Teasley.

Skole followed a fielder’s choice out with a three-run homer to left-center and a 9-0 lead. Tech made it the ninth double-digit scoring game of the season in the fifth when a grounder simply rolled under Adams’ glove at second for two runs.

Pope was solid through four innings, staying ahead of hitters and keeping the Bears off balance with quality breaking stuff. Last year’s closer for the Yellow Jackets retired 10 straight from the second to the fifth inning.

“That’s a front-line arm,” Gibson said. “He’s going to go in the first couple rounds of the draft.”

The streak was broken by the beaning of Adams, which Mercer followed by breaking the shutout on Nick DiMauro’s two-run single to right after an error on a routine double-play ball.

“If we turn that double play, (Pope) gets out of that inning,” Hall said. “It was probably going to be an easy double play. That happens, and when it does happen, you’ve got to make some pitches after that, and he didn’t quite do it.”

Tanis then drove Pope’s first pitch out for a three-run homer, and suddenly the Bears were alive.

“Tanis is a good hitter,” Hall said. “(Pope) made a bad pitch on him, and that’s what good hitters do, they hit the ball out of the ballpark when you make a bad pitch.”

But Tech added three in the sixth to quiet Mercer’s comeback hopes.

“That’s a fun team to watch,” Gibson said of Tech. “Unfortunately, I had to watch them from the other side. I’ll be really glad when those guys leave Atlanta.”