Gibson breaks down season-ending loss
Mercer’s late-season struggles continued the past two days at the Southern Conference Tournament.
The result was the end of the Bears’ season.
Mercer lost for the second straight day Friday, this time dropping a 5-4 decision to Samford as the Bears wrapped up their season with a 39-17 record. Mercer won the regular-season conference title for the third straight season but fell short of a regular season/tournament sweep for the second straight season.
The game was tied at 4 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Bulldogs came up with the clutch hits they needed. After two quick outs, Branden Fryman reached on a single, and Ayrton Schafer followed that with a double off the Green Monster in left field to score Fryman from first.
Five who mattered
JT Thomas: The Bears’ designated hitter had three hits and two RBI in four at-bats.
Alex Crotty: The freshman third baseman made his first start of the tournament for the Bears and came up with two hits in three at-bats.
Fryman: The Bulldogs’ shortstop went 3-for-4.
Schafer: Samford’s designated hitter had two hits and three RBI with a run scored.
In the eighth, the Bears had a good chance to break the tie on a Trey Truitt two-out single, but Samford left fielder Kevin Williams Jr. came up with a perfect throw to the plate to gun down David Posas and end the Bear’ threat.
Tough finish: Mercer ended its season with five losses in six games. After sitting at 35-7 on April 23, the Bears went 4-10 the rest of the way.
Solid start: Mercer senior Ryan Askew lasted 5 2/3 innings and kept the Bears in the game despite allowing 11 hits and four earned runs.
More missed chances: After stranding nine runners Thursday against Furman, Mercer stranded 10 more Friday.
Still a strong season: The Bears’ 39 wins tied for second most in program history with the 1981 and 2011 teams. The program record is 43 wins set in 2013.
They said it
Mercer head coach Craig Gibson on the loss: “It was a great baseball game. We just happened to come out on the short end of it. Samford played really well. They pitched well. I thought we pitched well. They just happened to get the big hit late in the game.”
Gibson on his large senior class: “You really can’t say enough about them. They’re just the total package in terms of four great years, all graduates, just everything they’ve done for this program. Their legacy is going to be one of greatness here in terms of winning and championships and everything these guys have done for this program. It’s just amazing. They’re just great people. It’s certainly a sad day for us. It’s an exciting day in one regard that we get to watch 10 great guys start the next chapter of their life. These guys are headed for greatness, whether it be at Mercer in the future, board of trustees members, you just never know. It will be interesting to watch, and these guys will always be a part of our family.”
Senior catcher Charlie Madden on his career: “It’s been a great four years. Couldn’t ask for more, better coaches. It’s been a great experience. It’s tough to go out like this, but we’ll definitely remember these four years.”
Conference player of the year Ryan Hagan on the season: “Coming into this tournament, we knew, and we still know we’re the best team in it. Tournament play, anything came happen. The team playing the best baseball gets to come out of it and gets to go to a regional. Unfortunately, weren’t playing our best baseball this time. That doesn’t say anything about the program. This is an unbelievable program. We won 39 games this year. That’s really tough to do. It’s an unbelievable program, unbelievable coaches. We’re disappointed that we lost but not disappointed in the season we had.”