After losing their winning streak against Georgia Southern University, the Bears traveled to Tampa to play the University of South Florida, losing the series 1-2.
The first game on Friday had a promising start but ended in a 2-10 Bears loss. Mercer opened the game in the top of the first with a score from Bill Knight off a wild pitch. Mercer held the Bulls scoreless until the bottom of the fourth, but the floodgates opened that inning and South Florida broke the game open.
Bears pitcher Josh Harlow hit the first batter, putting him on base. The subsequent two Bulls hitters both singled to load the bases. Then USF right fielder Daniel Cantu hit another single to bring home two runs. After another Bull's hitter grounded out to advance the runners, the next man up hit a single to bring in another runner.
Down 3-1, Mercer decided to bring in pitcher Spencer Borgel to stop the bleeding. He ended up doing the opposite and gave up a two-run blast to USF's Carmine Lane. The Bears subbed in pitcher Avery Stephens, and he managed to force a grounder to get the Bears out of the inning. With Mercer now down 5-1,the damage was already done. Knight hit an RBI sacrifice fly to bring home Treyson Hughes to make the game 5-2. USF then scored five straight unanswered runs, four in the bottom of the fifth, to call the game in the seventh inning.
The second game on Saturday was a better outing for the Bears and saw them even the series at one game apiece. Mercer opened the scoring again in the first with a two-run home run from Hughes. Then, in the second, Jozsef Rohrbacher hit a solo homer to put Mercer up 3-0. USF answered in the bottom of the second with an unearned run, but they didn't score again until the seventh inning.
The Bears scored nine runs from the third to the sixth inning. David Burke hit an RBI single, Collin Price hit a solo home run, Colby Thomas hit an RBI single, Hughes hit an RBI single, Knight hit an RBI single and Angelo DiSpigna hit a grand slam to bat in four runs. The score was 12-1 heading into the seventh inning.
Needing to score or risk having the game called, USF's players came up to bat. They scored three runs in the seventh off of an RBI single, a 2-RBI double and an RBI triple to inch closer with a score of 12-5. In the eighth, however, the Bears padded their lead with an RBI single from Antonio Brown and an RBI single from Trevor Austin. Down 14-5, USF found just a single RBI that wasn’t enough in the final inning. Mercer pitcher Jackson Kelley got the win for the game, 14-6.
The last game of the series on Sunday was a hard-fought heartbreaker, ending in a 3-2 Bears loss. Mercer made it home in the first inning once again with Price grounding out for an RBI. Neither team scored again till the fourth inning, when Price hit a solo homer to bring the Mercer lead to 2-0.
USF didn't find the board all the way until the bottom of the ninth inning. Josh Farmer had started the day on the mound for the Bears and he had allowed four hits in five innings with four strikeouts. After switching with Farmer, Kelley pitched from the seventh to the beginning of the ninth inning and allowed a single hit while having three strikeouts. Mercer decided to put in Luke Sutko to close out the game. Unfortunately for Mercer, USF had Sutko's number.
The Bulls began their comeback with a single to center field. Sutko then walked two runners to load the bases. With bases loaded, a USF sacrifice fly put the Bulls on the board to bring the game to a 2-1 score. Sutko hit the next batter with a pitch, loading the bases once again. Then, in a turn for the worst, Sutko threw a wild pitch which allowed a USF score. Sutko proceeded to hit the next better as well, loading the bases again. All it took was an RBI single to walk the game off for the Bulls with a score of 2-3.
The Bears will travel back home on Tuesday to take on Charleston Southern University at 6 p.m. and try to bounce back from a tough loss.
Keith Holmes Jr. ‘22 is a journalism and creative writing double major who has worked with The Cluster as general staff since his Sophomore year. Keith has received Best in SNO awards for his sports articles along with years of work at Mercer’s ESPN3 branch. Keith spends his free time playing video games and writing fiction around campus.