[caption id="attachment_478" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Jacob Tanis (22 HRs, 88 RBIs in 2010) will be a big part of Mercer's lineup this upcoming season."]
After a thrilling end to the 2010 campaign that saw the unexpected and unprecedented trip to the NCAA tournament, the Mercer Bears baseball team looks to return to the postseason, spurred on by experience and talent.
Collecting a preseason rank of 87th in the nation by “Collegiate Baseball”, they were the second-highest Atlantic Sun team in the poll, trailing Florida Gulf Coast (last season’s regular season A-Sun champions), but leading rival clubs East Tennessee State and Jacksonville. The high ranking came after Mercer won their first conference championship in baseball in more than 25 years.
After being part of a high-octane offense that lead the Bears into the NCAA tournament and ran a perfect sweep on the Atlantic Sun tournament, junior third baseman Jacob Tanis has been named to four different publications’ All-American third teams: “Collegiate Baseball Newspaper”, “College Baseball Lineup”, “Louisville Slugger”, and the “National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association”. In addition, he was named the 94th best player in the country by “College Baseball Daily”. His numbers, leadership and play were some of the best at Mercer in previous years. He was the Atlantic Sun tournament MVP and was instrumental in eliminating Elon in the NCAA tournament.
Tanis’ numbers in 2010 speak for themselves. He set single-season school records in total bases, hits and doubles. He also was second in school history for single-season home runs and RBIs. He was 40th in the nation with runs scored at 69. The hits single season record for Mercer is now at 104, a number that was 10th in the nation last year. The 25 doubles put him at 19th in the country. He also had 22 home runs for 12th place in the nation and added 88 RBIs for second place nationally. He was 31st in the country with a .735 slugging percentage and third nationally in total bases with 197.
Mercer as a team hit .340 last season, and this high-powered offense will be called upon to produce runs in conjunction with the Atlantic Sun’s eighth best fielding percentage of all time at .969. Craig Gibson told MercerBears.com at the end of last season, “I think we laid the groundwork this year that hopefully will help us compete for championships for years to come.” With a young team that now has national postseason experience, no one is doubting the Bears this season.
Mercer did lose Lath Guyer, Tyler McCarty, Michael Langley, Nick DiMauro, Scott Patterson and Michael Shaw. However, key players Billy Burns, Thomas Carroll, Evan Boyd, Justice French and Jacob Tanis will help lead a team that looks to contend for the conference crown against favorites ETSU, FGCU and Jacksonville.
The question marks seem to surround the pitching staff, as they were unable to control Georgia Tech and Alabama at the end of last season in the NCAA tournament. However, the pitching staff will have a chance to redeem themselves on March 29 at Tech and then on April 16 when they face the Yellow Jackets at home. The Bears also play a home-and-away series with the University of Georgia, with the Bears welcoming the Bulldogs on March 8. The Bears also welcome Harvard on March 14 and 15. Mercer will open play on Feb. 18 with a four-game weekend series (including a Saturday double-header) against Liberty University at home in the confines of Claude Smith Field.