Mercer got ‘punched in the mouth’ in first Regionals round. How do Bears move on from here?

‘Fun club to watch...tough to be on the other side of it,’ Mercer coach says of UGA after 13-3 loss

Mercer head coach Craig Gibson speaks to the media after the Bears' 13-3 loss to Georgia in their NCAA regional game Friday night in Athens.
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Mercer head coach Craig Gibson speaks to the media after the Bears' 13-3 loss to Georgia in their NCAA regional game Friday night in Athens.

The Mercer Bears have found themselves in an all too familiar situation: on the verge of elimination.

The Bears staved off elimination in five straight games after a blowout loss to Samford in the Southern Conference tournament.

Now Georgia has sent them back to the brink once again with a 13-3 loss in the first round of the NCAA regional to the national seeded Bulldogs.

“I think our youth helped us last week to get to this point,” Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said. “I think that sorta showed in the first inning. We misplayed a couple balls that sorta opened the door for them. When you give those kind of clubs opportunities, things happen.”

Now they will need to conjure up some more of that magic to stay alive. Gibson said he wants his team to come out ready to compete in the win-or-go-home game against Florida Atlantic, set for 1 p.m. Saturday.

“We want to stay here ‘til Sunday,” Gibson said. “It is very big for our program. We’ve won in the regionals before in 2010 but we want to be here Sunday.”

Georgia head baseball coach Scott Stricklin speaks to the media after the Bulldogs' 13-3 win over Mercer in the NCAA regional Friday night in Athens.

In order to put themselves in that position, the Bears must first pick itself up off the floor and battle, said right fielder Kel Johnson.

“I don’t think any of us have ever played on a team with more fight,” Johnson said. “We got punched in the mouth tonight. It wasn’t fun. We didn’t enjoy it. So it’s come out (Saturday) ready to go and fight hard.”

The Bears built some momentum late in the game when they began to string together some hits, including a pair in the 9th inning.

“I think this is a game of momentum swings. Any time you are able to put good at-bats together it, I think it helps you,” Gibson said. “It is something you can feed off of the next day.”

One of those key at-bats was a three-run homer by second baseman Kyle Dockus. Despite providing Mercer’s only runs of the game, he said he isn’t satisfied with the result.

“It felt good but I would have rather been on the winning end of the game,” he said. “It is good to get your at-bats in no matter how much you are down. It definitely felt good but I kinda wish we had won the game so that’s all that matters.”

The focus for the Bears now turns to FAU who come into Saturday following a 13-7 loss to Florida State in its opening game of the regional. The Bears are not looking to get into a shoot out with the Owls, Gibson said.

“We got to pitch well. We got to get off to a good start...Mack (FAU head coach John McCormack) will have those guys ready to play,” he said. “That is another quality team. They are an offensive team...We want to play a little lower scoring game tomorrow.”

Gibson said the key for his team is to put the Georgia game in the rearview mirror and not dwell on it too much.

“I think in this sport you have to have a short memory,” he said. “We got to get up. Get to bed and get ready to play tomorrow. Hopefully, we can have some good results.”