Georgia or Georgia Tech?
Kennesaw State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State or Savannah State?
Not them either.
Mercer is the lone Peach State college baseball program headed to the NCAA tournament this weekend, and it really shouldn’t be a surprise that it is back in the field of 64. The Bears are making their third trip to the tournament, and all of them have come since 2010.
Mercer will take on Florida State at 6 p.m. on Friday in the Tallahassee Regional after Auburn and College of Charleston open the regional at noon.
“Consistent,” Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said when describing the key to his program’s success. “We have been consistent as a staff and consistent with how we do things with this program. I’ve had the same pitching coach (Brent Shade) for seven seasons. I hired a good one in a guy who played for me (assistant coach Ty Megahee in his second season). And we added another good one this year (volunteer assistant coach Tanner Gordon).
“I think it’s easy to be good once. To sustain it is difficult. And we have sustained it, and we just have to keep going.”
The Bears certainly have had sustained success since Gibson took over 12 seasons ago.
In his first six seasons, Mercer went 162-168, but things have turned around in the past six seasons with a 231-121 record. At 35-21 this season, Mercer reached the 35-win mark for the sixth straight season. The Bears won the Southern Conference tournament title Sunday in their first season in the conference to earn their latest NCAA berth.
“We are a winning program; no matter what conference we’re in, we can get the job done,” sophomore catcher Charlie Madden said. “It’s not just like it’s a ‘This is our year’ thing. We can do it no matter who we have. We have a young lineup this year, but we have veteran pitching. Next year, we’re going to have some new pitchers, but our lineup will be back, so you never know.
“We have a chance every year. We know that. It’s just a matter of playing together and having a good balance.”
In 2010, Mercer went 1-2 in the regional round at Georgia Tech, losing to Georgia Tech before beating Elon and losing to Alabama. In 2013 at Mississippi State, the Bears lost to South Alabama and Central Arkansas.
Last year’s team just missed out on another trip to the tournament.
“We just keep get better,” senior reliever Morgan Pittman said. “They keep recruiting great guys and good players. We’re really young this year, and nobody gave us a chance, but we got it done. We keep growing. It’s awesome to be a part of it, and we’re really proud of it.”
The Bears don’t see this run slowing down any time soon.
“In high school, I saw they had some success, and I just wanted to be the next in line for that,” sophomore center fielder Kyle Lewis said. “We have shown that we can be consistent and keep winning at a high level, and we want to keep that going.”