Mercer shines again in prime time

There’s something about the night that suits the Mercer baseball team.

The Bears’ run of strong night games continued Friday at Claude Smith Field as they knocked off UNC Greensboro 12-1 in Southern Conference play.

The win improves Mercer’s record to 12-1 in night games. The Bears are 26-16 overall and 11-4 in conference play.

The Spartans drop to 17-20 and 8-8. The three-game series is scheduled to continue at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

“We just come out and play hard every day, and we knew we had a tough competition with their big arm on the mound and all the scouts in the stands, so we had to grind every pitch and face a lot of pitches and wear him out,” sophomore Matt Meeder said, referring to UNCG pitcher Ryan Clark. “And it all starts on the mound with Eric Nyquist putting up a zero in the first; that really helped us get the momentum going.”

Nyquist improved to 5-2 in his 10th start of the season, holding the Spartans scoreless until the fourth. He allowed one earned run and seven hits in 5-2/3 innings while striking out five and walking three in a 103-pitch performance. Morgan Pittman came on in the sixth and got one out on one pitch with the Bears leading 2-1 and the tying run on third.

Pittman went 2-1/3 innings without allowing a hit, and Ben Lumsden pitched the ninth to close it out.

Clark, who was the conference pitcher of the week, allowed four earned runs on six hits with five strikeouts and three walks in 6-1/3 innings.

“We challenged him to get out of the first inning,” Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said of Nyquist. “We just wanted to get off to a good start. We wanted a zero, and he did that for us. He got into some jams, but he was able to get out of them and was really good because he had to be because we were facing a really good pitcher.”

The Bears’ offense backed up Nyquist with a solid night, jumping on top with single runs in the second and third innings. Mercer added single runs in sixth and seventh before blowing things open with eight runs in the eighth.

The big blows in the inning were a three-run double by Kyle Lewis and a three-run home run by Howard Joe as the Bears sent 11 batters to the plate. Lewis went 3-for-4, while Joe and Meeder each had two hits.

Nate Moorhouse added a solo home run in the sixth.

“We want to keep the momentum going into (Saturday) with all those great at-bats,” Meeder said. “We feel great up at the plate right now, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the series.”