Before the season, Mercer baseball head coach Craig Gibson said he liked his team’s chances as it was preparing to make its debut in the Southern Conference.
The Bears again showed why Sunday.
Gibson’s team beat Samford 5-0 in Charleston, South Carolina, behind a complete-game performance from starting pitcher Eric Nyquist to win the conference tournament title. Mercer (35-21) clinches a spot in the NCAA tournament after outscoring its opponents 32-10 in a 4-0 showing in the conference tournament.
Mercer also won the conference regular-season title, becoming the first program to win the regular-season and tournament titles in the same season since The Citadel in 2010.
The Bears will make their third trip to the NCAA tournament, also earning berths in 2010 and 2013.
“It’s been a great run,” Gibson said. “We have won a lot of baseball games in five, six years, and I’m just so happy for our team, our fans and our university. Hopefully, we can keep playing a little bit longer.”
The Bears will learn where they will play in the regionals when the NCAA tournament field is announced Monday. Mercer, which reached 35 wins for the sixth straight season, claimed its fifth conference tournament title.
The baseball team became the first Mercer program to win both the conference regular-season and tournament titles in the school’s first year in the Southern Conference after leaving the A-Sun last summer. The men’s soccer team won the regular-season title but lost in the tournament championship game. The women’s soccer team won the tournament title to advance to the NCAA tournament, losing at Florida in the first round.
“They have been a part of a ton of success in our program from our time in the Atlantic Sun to the Southern Conference,” Gibson said of his seniors. “It’s special for them to be able to say they won a conference title in two different leagues and be able to extend their careers a little longer.”
Those efforts started Sunday with one of the seniors: Nyquist. He was named the MVP after coming up with his second straight strong start during the tournament. He scattered six hits for his second complete-game shutout of the year and needed just 111 pitches to finish off the Bulldogs.
And the Bears got him plenty of offense as Trey Truitt went 3-for-3 with a home run, two RBI and a walk and Devin Bonin, Danny Edgeworth and Jackson Ware each had two hits.
Nyquist was joined on the all-tournament team by reliever Morgan Pittman, catcher Charlie Madden, Edgeworth (third base) and Truitt (outfield).