Missed opportunities sink Mercer at NCAA regional

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Craig Gibson pointed to his team’s missed chances as the reason for its loss Friday night to Florida State.

That turned out to be the theme of Mercer’s trip to the NCAA baseball tournament’s Tallahassee Regional. The Bears couldn’t get the key hit when they needed it and left 13 runners on base in a 1-0 loss to Auburn on Saturday.

Mercer is now 1-6 in its three regional appearances, and it has lost five straight games. The Bears went scoreless in their final 16 innings of this regional after scoring four runs in the first three innings of a 5-4 loss to Florida State.

“We just couldn’t get anything going early in the innings,” Gibson said. “They’re tough, and their arms are good. They have a good club with good arms. It just wasn’t our day (Saturday).”

The Bears finished with seven hits, but six of those came with two outs. They left two runners on in the first, second and fourth innings and single runners on in the fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth.

In the seventh, Danny Edgeworth lined out to shortstop with two outs and the bases loaded. That came after Auburn’s Keegan Thompson made his first ­relief appearance of year and the third of his career as he took over for Rocky McCord in the tight spot.

Also, Auburn’s Jackson Burgreen made a terrific home-run robbing catch on a shot by Trey Truitt in the fifth, slamming into the wall and holding onto the ball. With no outs in the ninth, Matt Meeder hit a rocket to Auburn third baseman Damon Haecker, but Haecker made a snag, and it turned into a double play.

Devin Bonin then struck out, but Auburn catcher Blake Logan couldn’t hold on to the ball. That gave the Bears life, but Southern Conference player of the year Kyle Lewis flied out to center field to end the game.

“They did a good job of keeping the leadoff guy off base, and that’s the key to a lot of big innings or innings when you score runs,” said sophomore catcher Charlie Madden, who had five hits in the regional. “(McCord) was good. He had a good slider and threw it for strikes when he needed to, and he threw it in any count, and that was key for him.”

McCord was indeed strong, going 6-2/3 scoreless innings, allowing six hits and striking out three while handing out two walks. Blake Logan brought home the only run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth, scoring Jordan Ebert.

Mercer ace Eric Nyquist started the game on the mound and lasted three-plus innings. But with two runners on and no outs in the fourth, Nyquist was lifted for Morgan Pittman, who got the Bears out of the jam. Pittman allowed one run on three hits in 3-1/3 innings, and the senior allowed one run in 11 postseason innings (fourth in the Southern Conference tournament and 3-2/3 on Friday).

“We are tired of coming close,” Gibson said. “We need to win a couple of these. We have been close, but this is what championship baseball is about. When we start our fall segment, everything is focused on this. It’s a one-run game, and we know this is the environment we’re going to be in. It’s difficult.”

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