After a 2011 campaign that saw the Bears finish 39-20 and lose a variety of stars from their starting nine, Head Coach Craig Gibson and the Bears look to an array of young talent to step forward in 2012.
After the recent visit from Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones and with a four-game set at home to start the season against Kentucky’s Morehead State University, the Bears hit the field for the first time this spring with a doubleheader at Claude Smith Field.
Morehead St. 6, Mercer 22
In the first game of the season, Mercer showed off their new scoreboard and talented pool of offense in their 16-run blowout of Morehead State. The game started slow as it entered the bottom of the third inning tied 0-0.
The Bears would break through first as they scored two runs off of a Derrick Workman single and an Evan Boyd sac fly in the bottom of the third.
Mercer would lead the game until the top of the fifth when the Beakers put a five spot in the board and took a 6-3 lead. It would not last long as Craig Gibson’s team would respond with six in the bottom half of the inning and an astounding 11 runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach. The Bears homered three times in the sixth inning outburst. Two of the three came off the bat of sophomore Nick Backlund.
In their first game of the season, the Bears did everything from play an error-free game, hit a grand slam, surpass 20 hits and surpass 20 runs.
N. Backlund (MU) 2-4, Grand Slam, 6 RBIs, 3 R, BB…
D. Brown (MU) 3.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R
Morehead St. 9, Mercer 8
In game two of the Friday doubleheader, the score was tied entering the third once again before each team plated two runs. The game would remain a deadlock until the Bears were able to score a run in the bottom of the fifth to make it a 3-2 Mercer lead.
The early pitcher’s duel turned into a hitter’s game as each team began to score runs on the opposition’s bullpen. After a four-run sixth by the Bears, the Beakers of Morehead State followed with their own four in the top half of the seventh. Junior David Reid Foley would tie the game at 8-8 with an RBI single in the bottom half of the seventh.
Morehead State would eventually respond with the decisive run with a solo shot by Kellen Begeman on a 2-0 count in the top of the eighth. The Kentucky-homed team would seal the deal with Matt Duncan’s solid two innings of relief to close out the game. Duncan faced eight batters and allowed just one hit in the final two frames.
B. Barker (MU) 4 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 7 K…
L. Bainer (MSU) 4-6, 2-run HR, 2 RBIs, 2 R
Morehead St. 1, Mercer 2
In a pitcher’s duel that saw each team tally just six hits and an error a piece, the Bears squeezed out a one-run victory. After scoring a combined 45 runs in two games on opening day of play, the Bears and Beakers couldn’t muster a whole lot of offense as Morehead State’s Aaron Goe and Mercer’s Dimitri Kourtis pitched six innings and six and a third innings respectively. They each gave up just one earned run, walked two batters and faced 25 batters a piece.
With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Mercer’s Austin Barrett scored the eventual game-winner off of an error.
After the run, the Mercer bullpen would pitch two and two-thirds perfect innings to seal the win.
Aaron Goe (MSU) 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER…
Dimitri Kourtis (MU) 6.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER
Morehead St. 0, Mercer 10
Entering their final game of the four-game series with Morehead State, the Bears were aiming at a 3-1 start to the season and a series win. They would do just that as pitcher David Randall and three Mercer relief pitchers would team up to throw a shutout in the 10-0 afternoon stomping.
While the defense was taken care of by senior pitcher David Randall, the offense came in the shape of Travis Benn and Chesny Young. Benn provided a three-run dinger in the first while Young helped pile on the runs with his own two-run shot in the third.
D. Randall (MU) 5.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 8 K…
T. Benn (MU) 1-2, 3-run HR, 3 RBIs, 2 R, BB
The Bears are off to the start they hoped for. With a few bright spots of pitching in games three and four of the series, the Mercer offense came to life with 42 runs in just four games. They sit at 3-1 and after facing Florida A&M on the road for a brief two-game set, the Bears return home for a three-game series with Presbyterian on Feb. 24.