Mercer’s fourth offensive surge turned out to be the charm.
The Bears trailed three times Friday night against Western Carolina in a game that was also tied on three occasions.
Mercer prevailed for good in the eighth inning, pushing across three runs to overcome Western Carolina 11-8 in Southern Conference baseball at Claude Smith Field.
Kyle Lewis’s RBI single was followed by a run-scoring triple by Danny Edgeworth, who later advanced home on a wild pitch to provide the final margin.
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The win gives Mercer (21-14, 8-2 conference) a two-game lead over Western Carolina (14-15, 6-4), which entered Friday in second place in the standings.
Matt Meeder led Mercer at the plate with three hits, with Lewis and Jackson Ware each having two.
Of the Bears’ rallies, the biggest came in a span of multiple innings, erasing a 6-2 deficit after the top of the second inning to tie the score at 6 in the fifth. The Bears also tied the score at 2 after giving up a pair of first-inning runs.
Mercer fought back gradually.
A second-inning solo homer by Trey Truitt and another by Charlie Madden in the fourth sliced the Catamounts’ lead to 6-4. Mercer, which got itself in position to tie the score in the fifth on a Lewis single and Edgeworth being hit by a pitch, did just that, knotting the score on a Ware single and run-scoring groundout by Nate Moorhouse.
As much grit as the Bears showed at the plate, they found themselves in place to rally thanks in large part to reliever Morgan Pittman.
With starting pitcher Eric Nyquist being yanked from the game in the second inning after a Jacob Hoyle grand slam put the Catamounts in front 6-2, Pittman was called into action.
In 5-2/3 innings, he gave up just one run on two hits, striking out a season-high 11 batters, including five in a row at one point. His pitching kept the Catamounts off-balance. They scratched a run across the plate in the seventh to lead 7-6.
Mercer didn’t flinch. Austin Lord, Mitchell Wade and Ben Lumsden pitched the rest of the way, combining to surrender one run on four hits.
At the plate, the Bears went right to work putting together another comeback in the seventh to move ahead 8-7. A Ware single scored Lewis, and Howard Joe cashed in two batters later with an RBI of his own to plate Ware.
Western Carolina knotted the score in the eighth, but were limited to one run thanks to Lumsden, who pitched the final inning and a third to get the win.