As chants of ‘Freddie’ rang down from the seats of Truist Park on Oct. 12, the cornerstone of the Atlanta Braves’ current squad looked happier than ever.
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The Mercer Men’s Golf team finished in second place overall at the Golfweek Fall Challenge last week, breaking the program record for a 54 hole course in the process with a team score of 29-under par.
On a day destined for a shutout, Mercer University had other plans. Amidst a Tide of points for the University of Alabama in Saturday afternoon’s game, the Bears were able to score two touchdowns of their own against the No. 1 team in the country.
One of the most important days of the academic year is the drop-add deadline, but it can be easy to miss for new students at Mercer.This year it’s Aug. 27, the Friday of the first week of classes. Here’s everything you need to know about drop-add and how it can change your schedule and college experience.
This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster.COVID-19 has drawn divisive lines between friends, families, coworkers and everyone in between. It’s not an easy topic to avoid, and it’s a controversial one once it gets brought up. Mercer University knows this and is avoiding taking a truly definitive stance on masks. The university administration needs to step up and have a strong stance on masks for the safety of both the Mercer and Macon communities.Before tackling the issues on why masks should be required, the policy itself has to be addressed. The school’s current mask policy, which is essentially an ambiguous set of recommendations, is a problem whether you support mask mandates or not.The most recent policy update was released Aug. 12 by the university and said that unvaccinated individuals are required to wear masks. The policy also states that vaccinated individuals are not required to wear masks but are “strongly encouraged” to do so.This policy is impossible to enforce. Mercer simply does not have the resources to keep track of who is vaccinated and enforce unvaccinated students to keep their masks on. While students will submit proof of vaccination prior to the beginning of the semester, there is virtually no way to constantly check people’s vaccination status.As it stands currently, faculty will not be provided a list of unvaccinated students, according to the Provost’s office. This means that they will be unable to enforce unvaccinated students wearing masks within their classrooms.Another problem lies in the fact that Mercer’s policy allows departments to have their own individual mask requirements.On Aug. 18, the Journalism and Media Studies department is enforcing all students to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Other departments are currently developing their own policies that may differ.This is chaos. While many students do have most of their classes in one area of study, many more have a variety of classes in different departments and buildings. Students should not have to keep up with varying masking policies when moving between classes. It is extremely inefficient at best and a huge health risk at worst.This policy also shifts the blame for enforcing masks onto departments and professors instead of the school administration. The entire job of the administration is to make decisions on school-wide issues, yet it deferred this choice to each individual area of study. Now department chairs will be blamed by students who may not agree with certain policies despite the fact that the administration is at fault for making their policy so open-ended.This simply is not fair to department chairs who have enough to deliberate on within their actual jobs, nor is it fair to students who will undoubtedly want answers about why certain mask requirements were put in place.Perhaps the most important reason for Mercer actually developing a policy, though, can be found in the data. On July 17 in Bibb County, there were not any new COVID-19 cases, according to the New York Times. The seven-day average that day was listed at 12 new cases. This is an outlier, of course, but it shows that the area did at one point have a moderate handle on the pandemic.On Aug. 17, there were 211 new cases in Bibb County. The seven-day average for new cases was 173. This ties in with a national trend, as the country recently broke the 100,000 case mark and saw some states break records for hospitalizations.The same New York Times article lays out simple graphs that display the obvious: these meteoric rises in cases are directly tied to the low vaccination rates across the nation. As long as vaccination rates remain low, the delta variant of COVID-19 will continue to spread. Masking and social distancing are necessary to prevent this.Those drastically increased Bibb County numbers are without the presence of a student body that will be filled with unvaccinated students and maskless students. Either Mercer enforces masks for everyone or it requires vaccinations of all students, and it’s too late for the latter to make a meaningful difference with the delta variant.Mercer has made a distinct effort to build its relationship with Macon and Bibb County in recent years. The university has helped renovate nearby neighborhoods, brought people to the downtown area and provided jobs to citizens. The communities of Macon and Mercer are inherently linked as a result, with Mercer students and faculty interacting with surrounding areas more than ever.With this in mind, Mercer simply cannot be responsible for the deaths or hospitalizations of Bibb County citizens. After all of the building Mercer has done in Bibb County, it risks it all by having a mask policy that could lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases and subsequent deaths.The logistical problems with requiring vaccinations are easy to understand, but there is no logistical issue with enforcing masks. It makes everything simpler for everyone involved. Even not having a mandatory mask policy — as opposed to the “policy” that’s currently in place — would be simpler.The bottom line is that Mercer’s current mask policy is indecisive and utterly fails to protect the student body. The university desperately needs to make a decision on whether or not they wish to fully enforce masks.Regardless of their opinion on the necessity of masks, Mercer needs to have their policy apply to everyone and extend as a blanket to all areas of campus. At least let students be sure of what’s asked of them — to mask or not to mask — even if it means an increased number of COVID-19 cases.
The Mercer men’s and women’s soccer teams will start their seasons soon and offered previews of what’s to come in exhibition games throughout August. Here’s a look at how each team fared in friendly matchups and what to look for this season. Women’s soccer Mercer women’s soccer began their season Aug. 11 with an exhibition matchup against Jacksonville University, winning the game by a score of 3-0 at Betts Stadium. An early goal in the fourth minute of play gave the Bears a 1-0 lead that set the tone for the matchup. Mercer’s Pace Stephenson, Ally Fordham and Kendall Cook all scored goals in the game. "It's always good to play a friendly prior to the regular season and see where our team is at," women’s head coach Tony Economopoulos told Mercer Athletics after the game. "We got off to a quick start and did some things well, but Jacksonville exposed things we need to work on as well.” The team’s second friendly match came against the Auburn University Tigers Aug. 14. Mercer lost by a score of 2-0, allowing goals in the 51st and 55th minutes of the match. The Bears did not allow a shot on goal for the first 20 minutes of play. "In the first half I thought our defense was good," Economopoulos said. "Auburn had more shots than us, but I was proud of the way we played throughout the first 45 minutes.” Despite the loss, the game was a positive showing for Mercer’s squad. The future of the team was on display in the area of goalkeeping, as freshman goalie Lindsay Bell made multiple saves against Auburn to keep the game scoreless at halftime. While the goalie position this year will be occupied by graduate student Jordyn Ebert, the team will eventually need a replacement. Bell proved in the exhibition matches that she can succeed Ebert in goal. In the meantime, Ebert will play the position during the 2021 season. She led the team in minutes last season and led the Southern Conference with 96 saves, according to Mercer Athletics. Other team leaders include Cook, who was an All-Conference Freshman last season, and leading scorer Fordham. The women’s team will have their first matchup against Georgia State University Aug. 19. Men’s soccer The men’s team kicked off their season with a friendly matchup against Campbell University Sunday, losing by a 4-1 score at home. The Bears’ lone goal was scored by Logan Longo off of a corner kick from Dylan Gaither. The goal came in the 28th minute and gave the Bears a 1-0 lead, but the advantage did not last. The Fighting Camels scored two goals less than 10 minutes later and eventually tacked on two more. Despite the low goal total, Mercer had many opportunities on offense. The team tallied seven corner kicks and 14 shots on goal. Many of these opportunities came during the final 20 minutes of the match, but the Bears couldn’t capitalize. Mercer’s season shows promise despite the exhibition loss. Two Mercer players, Gaither and Ousman Jabang, were both awarded preseason honors by the Southern Conference. The Bears were also tied for third in the conference’s preseason poll, according to Mercer Athletics. Gaither, a rising junior and midfielder, tallied a team-leading five goals last season for Mercer. Two of his goals were game-winning goals against Georgia Southern University and Jacksonville. Jabang, a defender, contributed to Mercer’s two shutouts last season with solid defense and even scored a goal of his own against Wofford. The Bears will play one more exhibition match against University of Alabama at Birmingham this Saturday at Betts Stadium. They open their official schedule with a home game against Gardner-Webb Aug. 26.
Mercer officially joined the COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge last Thursday, according to the university. The school will participate in the program at the request of the White House and the U.S Department of Education.The College Vaccine Challenge advocates for colleges and universities around the country to offer vaccinations for campus communities. The challenge has three “key actions,” according to the White House: engaging every student, faculty, and staff member; organizing college communities; and delivering vaccine access for all.Mercer joins the initiative after making vaccinations available to the campus community in late March and early April. Mercer Director of Student Health Dr. Lynn Denny encourages Mercer students to get vaccinated.“It is important for the whole Mercer community to get vaccinated to prevent COVID-19 illness in our students, faculty and staff, as well as our loved ones,” Denny said to The Den.The university continues to offer vaccines throughout the summer but has not announced that it will require students and staff to be vaccinated this fall, although they do “strongly encourage” it, according to The Den. Masks will not be required for vaccinated students and employees at Mercer this fall.Mercer University President Bill Underwood also emphasized the importance of the vaccine in an email to students April 13.“I encourage all of you who have not yet been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible,” Underwood said. “The vaccination sites on our campuses could not be more convenient. By getting vaccinated, you will help us achieve herd immunity in our nation and community.”Mercer is one of eight Georgia colleges and universities to join the College Vaccine Challenge as of June 15, according to the White House’s COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge page. Other Georgia schools that have joined the initiative include Georgia Southern University and Emory University.The College Vaccine Challenge is intended to build on President Joe Biden’s program matching federal pharmacy program partners with high-enrollment community colleges to provide vaccines. The community college program was introduced May 11, and the College Vaccine Challenge was announced June 3.Students and employees can schedule vaccination appointments here or find more information on Mercer’s updated COVID-19 policies here.
[related title="Related Stories" stories="28404,28401,28037,28301" align="right" background="on" border="all" shadow="off"] Mercer officially joined the COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge last Thursday, according to the university. The school will participate in the program at the request of the White House and the U.S Department of Education. The College Vaccine Challenge advocates for colleges and universities around the country to offer vaccinations for campus communities. The challenge has three “key actions,” according to the White House: engaging every student, faculty, and staff member; organizing college communities; and delivering vaccine access for all. Mercer joins the initiative after making vaccinations available to the campus community in late March and early April. Mercer Director of Student Health Dr. Lynn Denny encourages Mercer students to get vaccinated. “It is important for the whole Mercer community to get vaccinated to prevent COVID-19 illness in our students, faculty and staff, as well as our loved ones,” Denny said to The Den. The university continues to offer vaccines throughout the summer but has not announced that it will require students and staff to be vaccinated this fall, although they do “strongly encourage” it, according to The Den. Masks will not be required for vaccinated students and employees at Mercer this fall. Mercer University President Bill Underwood also emphasized the importance of the vaccine in an email to students April 13. “I encourage all of you who have not yet been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible,” Underwood said. “The vaccination sites on our campuses could not be more convenient. By getting vaccinated, you will help us achieve herd immunity in our nation and community.” Mercer is one of eight Georgia colleges and universities to join the College Vaccine Challenge as of June 15, according to the White House’s COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge page. Other Georgia schools that have joined the initiative include Georgia Southern University and Emory University. The College Vaccine Challenge is intended to build on President Joe Biden’s program matching federal pharmacy program partners with high-enrollment community colleges to provide vaccines. The community college program was introduced May 11, and the College Vaccine Challenge was announced June 3. Students and employees can schedule vaccination appointments here or find more information on Mercer’s updated COVID-19 policies here.
Note: SGA Vice Presidential Candidate Natalie Yaeger is employed by The Cluster as the Lead Lifestyle & Opinion Writer. This does not contribute to or impact our coverage of her relating to the race. As the SGA Presidential election approaches, the organization’s debate Wednesday allowed candidates to answer questions about their ideas and policies. The debate also let students submit questions to the candidates. Here are the highlights from the debate. The debate format The debate featured the candidates taking turns answering questions from the moderator, The Cluster’s Managing Editor Mary Helene Hall. The candidates were typically given three minutes to respond, with the opposing candidate answering afterwards. The candidate that went first was decided by a coin flip prior to the debate. All candidates were able to answer questions within the time limit. Here are their answers to some of the more important questions and issues of the evening. What are your campaign platforms? Rylan Allen and Natalie Yaeger talked about their three main campaign platforms: diversity, mental health and communication and transparency. These three points for Allen and Yaeger led to discussions on having more diverse texts in the Mercer Integrative Studies and Great Books programs and helping students obtain better counseling from Counseling and Psychological Services. The four platform ideas for Ashton Bearden and Caleb Mills are transparency, sustainability, accountability and health and wellness. The duo addressed the problems with Mercer’s lack of recycling as well as creating a way to spread awareness about mental, physical and sexual health by creating a committee to work with Mercer facilities and administration on those areas. What is the job of an SGA officer? Both campaigns answered this question swiftly and passionately, largely agreeing on the role of an SGA officer. Bearden and Mills emphasized the importance of communication and advocating for the student body. Allen and Yaeger reiterated this point in their own response. “That is our job: to help all of you and to represent all of you,” Yaeger said. “We are only good if we work together (...) That’s the only way we are going to make a stronger Mercer and stronger community as a whole.” Both campaigns aligned on this issue, stating that the job of SGA members is to represent the student body and fix issues within the university. How will you communicate with administration? What if you disagree? A key part of being an SGA president or vice president is addressing student needs and problems in discussions with the Mercer administration. In response to this question, Bearden and Mills made their dedication to persistence clear on the topic of discussion with administration. “Something that’s very important is not just telling someone, ‘Oh, I want you to do that,’ but actually following up,” Mills said. “If they don’t really want to do something that we’re proposing, just asking, ‘Hey, do you have a solution,’ just wearing them down to make sure we’re getting some response and getting something done." Allen and Yaeger leaned more towards addressing the communication part of the question, emphasizing keeping students informed. Allen mentioned the mural that was removed from Mercer Village last year as a clear example of administration not communicating with students, as many students did not know why it was removed. Allen says that acting as a link between students and administration will lead to better communication between the two. “A lot of students didn’t know anything about (the mural), but the administration told us that it was a contracted mural and it was not supposed to stay,” Allen said. “But it would have been nice for students to know about that so they could have expressed their disliking for the removal of that. What we want to do is create clear communication channels between administration and ourselves to you so that way you feel that SGA actually represents you all.” How do we know you aren’t running just to build your resume? Both candidates acknowledged that the office might be a resume booster, but said that being president is not about the title. “My intention for this position is not my resume. I was vice president last year,” Bearden said. “When I was thinking about running for this position, I didn’t want to do it this year (…) but I had already spent three years on SGA. I felt that I should use that experience to bring up new leaders and advocate for the students.” Allen had a similar response, citing his status as class president for the prior two years and his use of that position to connect with students in the past. “If you are sophomores in here, you’ve probably gotten dozens of emails from me, and I’m sorry, but hey, the reason why I’m doing that is to make sure you know what’s going on around campus and what’s going on with administration,” Allen said. “I also make sure that under my email signature is my phone number, and I use social media a lot.” What can you do that your opponent cannot or is not willing to do? This question gave the candidates an opportunity to explain why they are unique, and both campaign teams took advantage of that.Allen stressed the importance of his campaign team’s diversity, specifically citing his ability to connect with students of color and LGBTQIA+ students at Mercer. “There's only been two Black SGA presidents on campus,” Allen said. “I believe that when students elect the president, they want to make sure that they elect the presidential and vice presidential candidate that they feel will be able to advocate for them, go through the same life experiences as they do so they understand what students want.” Allen backed this point by highlighting his ability to represent those groups. “Being a Black man, I'm also a gay man. I believe that students on this campus that come from the LGBTQ and minority community are able to resonate with the wider view of the person, which means that they think I can actually advocate for one as well,” Allen said. Bearden and Mills emphasized their goal of representing everyone, particularly women, by creating a more diverse staff of SGA members. “You look at us, and you see two men. And you wonder, where is the representation for women,” Bearden said. “That’s why we want to implement the executive board to the president and vice president to be predominantly women, as well as create a student cabinet that would have 24 different backgrounds around campus that would communicate directly with us.” Bearden says that the diverse student cabinet would meet once a month and talk to the president and vice president directly before they meet with University President Bill Underwood and Dean of Students Doug Pearson. Conclusions After the debate, it is clear that both campaign teams place a large emphasis on the topics of mental health and diversity. The candidates also acknowledged the importance of communication and transparency, being sure to promise students that their concerns would be made clear to university administration. As the March 29-30 election date draws near, students will decide which of these two campaign teams to vote for. Students can vote online through their MyMercer and CourseEval accounts.
Mercer’s Student Government Association held its 2021 Presidential Debate in the Connell Student Center Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The event featured discussions between presidential candidates Rylan Allen and Ashton Bearden and vice presidential candidates Natalie Yeager and Caleb Mills. Bearden, current SGA vice president, is running with SGA Senator Caleb Mills, while Sophomore Class President Rylan Allen is running alongside SGA Senator-at-Large Natalie Yaeger. The Allen and Bearden campaign teams were each asked questions about their campaign platforms, how they aim to help represent the student body to Mercer’s administration and the role of SGA officers. Both candidates said they were satisfied following the debate. “We were able to get all the platform ideas out there and express them,” Bearden said. “It was a little tough for me personally, because you’re in a room full of people and really pouring your heart out, trying to express themselves and present what you’re about. Overall, I loved it. It was a great experience.” Allen said he agreed with Bearden on the success of the debate and also expressed gratitude for the student turnout. “I think the debate went really well. We saw a big turnout of students. Students were actually coming out and trying to understand what all the candidates were running for,” Allen said. “There were not too many to prevent social distancing, and it gave us an audience to directly talk to about our platforms.” According to SGA President Savannah Lackey, about 75 people total — both in-person and over Zoom — were in attendance. The debate was moderated by The Cluster’s Managing Editor Mary Helene Hall and consisted of two sections of questions. During the first phase of debate, Hall asked both candidates questions that they were to answer in the given time frame. Candidates were typically given three minutes to respond to questions. The second phase of the debate featured Hall asking questions submitted by students prior to the debate. These questions ranged from inquiries about Mercer’s campus safety to the university’s ongoing fire alarm and wifi problems. Both candidates said they appreciated the student body’s questions. “I think they were all important questions that needed to be asked — students really do care about what goes on around campus, and they really do want to know who they’re voting for,” Allen said. “They were vetted really well and allowed us to fairly and accurately respond.” Bearden said he agreed with Allen on the importance of the student questions. “I think the questions were fully fleshed out and they allowed us to express our viewpoints,” Bearden said. “It allowed us to correctly communicate between everybody. I’m glad people came and were able to hear us.” The debate began at 7 p.m. and lasted until around 8 p.m., and featured in-person attendance in the Connell Student Center as well as the option for students to attend via Zoom call. The debate also marked the first SGA Presidential debate since 2018, according to the organization. The SGA Presidential Elections will be held Mar. 29 and Mar. 30. Students can vote online or in person at the Connell Student Center.
Mercer’s men’s basketball team fell in the Southern Conference Championship Game on Sunday, losing to the University of North Carolina Greensboro by a score of 69-61. Mercer was able to keep pace with the top-seeded UNCG Spartans for the majority of the game, but fell behind in the final minutes and could not recover. Mercer Head Coach Greg Gary said that missing crucial late shots led to the Bears’ demise. “I know we had good looks,” Gary said. “We gotta knock them down, and unfortunately we didn't knock them down today. But we're going to be here again, and guys got to learn from it.” With the game tied at 58-58 with just four minutes remaining, Mercer allowed eight unanswered UNCG points, making the score 66-58 at the 1:15 mark. The Spartans missed several late free throws to keep the Bears in the game, but Mercer failed to hit a single shot from the field for the remainder of the game and ended the evening with a close loss. The Bears were tasked with keeping up with a quick UNCG offense that was captained by Southern Conference Player of the Year Isaiah Miller. Miller scored 25 points on 10-20 shooting from the field, capitalizing on Mercer’s mistakes throughout the game. “We just made some silly mistakes at the end and (you can’t do that) against good teams,” Gary said. “And you got Isaiah Miller out there that makes plays, winning plays, and we just needed to get more of them.” On the offensive side, James Glisson and Leon Ayers III both scored 16 points, followed by Felipe Haase’s 13 points and 10 rebounds. Despite the well-distributed scoring, the Bears could not control the basketball, surrendering 18 turnovers throughout the game. Ross Cummings, who has been a leading scorer for the Bears all season, struggled during the game. He finished with just 5 points in the final game of his career for Mercer. The championship loss comes after a Mercer streak during the tournament consisting of three consecutive wins, including an upset over the No. 2 Wofford Terriers in the quarterfinal round. This was the Bears’ first ever appearance in the Southern Conference championship game since joining the conference in 2015. The Bears will say farewell to departing senior Cummings and hope to retool for the 2021-22 season following the tournament exit.
Mercer University hosted a watch party on the main street of Mercer Village for its men's basketball team’s championship game Monday night. The watch party featured a two-story projection screen to display the game, which aired on ESPN. Mercer also provided picnic tables. Students, faculty and staff were invited to attend the event. Masks and social distancing were required. The watch party resulted in the closure of the stretch of Montpelier Avenue that passes through the Mercer Village area. Traffic cones were placed at either end of the stretch of road to prevent drivers from entering Mercer Village in their vehicles as the watch party was set up. Mercer officials announced the watch party Monday between noon and 1 p.m. via email and social media. Mercer students were required to move their vehicles from the Mercer Village street parking prior to 3 p.m. Monday to make room for the event. The watch party was scheduled to occur from 6 p.m to 9 p.m, leaving room on either side of the basketball game, which began at 7 p.m. People attending the watch party were encouraged to support local restaurants by ordering dinner from Mercer Village businesses. The watch party was organized after Mercer’s men’s basketball team won three consecutive games to advance to the Southern Conference Championship Game in Asheville, North Carolina. The Bears were the seventh-ranked team in the tournament and had to upset multiple teams to reach the championship. Mercer faced the top-seeded University of North Carolina Greensboro Spartans in the tournament’s championship game. After an exciting game with several lead changes, the Bears were unable to complete the upset and eventually fell to the Spartans by a score of 69-61. Mercer’s women’s basketball team also reached their respective conference championship game this week, although there was no watch party held for the matchup. The game took place Sunday at noon and ended with a 60-38 victory for Mercer over the opposing Wofford Terriers. The championship granted the women’s team an entrance into the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament that begins March 21.
Mercer University’s women’s basketball team stormed their way through the Southern Conference Tournament, winning the championship against the No. 4 Wofford Terriers by a score of 60-38 Sunday in Asheville, North Carolina. Mercer was led to the championship by Amoria Neal-Tysor. Neal-Tysor scored 16 points in the decisive title game, capping off a three-game tournament run in which she averaged over 25 points per game. She was awarded the SoCon Tournament MVP Award at the conclusion of the tournament. The championship marks a turnaround for the Bears, who only won eight games in last year’s season. Mercer won three straight games to take home the title, beating all three opponents by comfortable margins. In their first game of the tournament Thursday, the Bears opened strong with a win against Western Carolina University. The No. 7 Catamounts kept up in the first quarter of play, but ended the first half down by 8 in a 39-31 game. Mercer kept their momentum up in the third quarter, scoring another 19 and holding Western Carolina to just 12 points in the third to extend their lead. Neal-Tysor led the way for the Bears, scoring 27 points in the win. Jada Lewis also had a strong performance for Mercer with 24 points. Mercer led for 38 of 40 minutes, forcing 11 turnovers from the Catamounts. The game ended with a 9-point Bears win by a score of 76-67. The Bears then moved to the Friday semifinal round to face the No. 6 Furman Paladins. A strong first quarter vaulted Mercer into the lead with the Bears scoring 25 points in the first quarter. Another 25 points in the second gave Mercer 50 points at the half and a 50-32 lead over the Paladins. Mercer scored just seven points in the third quarter as their offensive performance faltered. The fourth quarter provided a return to form, though, as both Mercer and Furman kept pace and scored 24 points in the quarter. The Bears held on to a 10-point lead and took home the win by a score of 81-71. Neal-Tysor dominated again for Mercer, scoring 34 points in the game. This included 23 points in the first half alone. Jaron Dougherty followed with 17 points in the matchup. Neal-Tysor and Dougherty’s performances helped lead Mercer to their fifth conference championship game in six years. The title game went similarly for Mercer. The Bears held Wofford to just 25% shooting from the field, including a stretch of more than 14 minutes during the second and third quarters where Wofford failed to make a single shot. With just 12 points in the second and third quarters combined, the Terriers could not score against Mercer’s defense. The Bears were able to pull away and secure the championship. This championship win grants Mercer a ticket to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, their third trip to the event in the past four years. Mercer’s first round opponent will be determined in the selection show Mar. 15 at 7 p.m.
Hank Aaron passed away Jan. 22, 2021. He was one of the most iconic baseball players of all time. More importantly, though, Aaron was emblematic of racial and social justice, playing in the South during a time of racial conflict. He revolutionized the game with both his talent and his leadership. Aaron grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and signed his first professional contract in 1951, according to his biography. While playing with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues, Aaron experienced frequent racism. He recalled in an interview with Total Baseball Encyclopedia that a diner shattered its plates after he and his Black teammates ate with them. As Aaron excelled at the plate, he eventually received offers from the Giants and Braves of the major leagues, signing with the latter team and debuting in 1954. The franchise was still in Milwaukee at the time, but moved back to Atlanta later in Aaron’s career. Aaron played at a high level from the very beginning, hitting .280 with a 104 OPS+ in his rookie season. By 1957, though, he was dominant, winning the MVP Award and smashing 44 home runs. Aaron’s career continued to progress into the next decade, where he consistently batted above .300 and was an offensive force for the Braves. In 1966, the Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta. Hank Aaron was now the Most Valuable Player of a team rooted in the Deep South. Death threats rolled in as Aaron continued to shine. The racism reached its peak going into the early 1970s, as Aaron’s home run total approached 714, the record held by the iconic Babe Ruth. Aaron said later that he read the letters. He told Sports Illustrated that they “remind (him) what people are like.” On April 8, 1974, Aaron broke one of the most iconic career records in baseball history by hitting his 715th career home run. In the middle of the South, a crowd of mostly white people erupted. People stormed the field. Aaron had set a new precedent for baseball, and a new precedent for America. After his playing career, he acted as vice president for the Braves organization. He was awarded the Springarn Medal by the NAACP. Aaron also received both the Presidential Citizens Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was a national public figure, even receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in January to set an example for those around him. Hank Aaron didn’t just set a precedent, he set examples. He will be remembered as a breaker of social barriers, records, and baseballs.
The Mercer men’s lacrosse team secured their first win of the 2021 season Saturday, beating the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears by a score of 17-4 in Five Star Stadium. Mercer, now playing under new Coach Chad Surman, showed goal-scoring prowess and played consistent defense over four quarters to beat Lenoir-Rhyne. The scoring was balanced, as five separate Mercer players scored two or more goals. Will McCarthy, Jack McGuire and Collin Stewart all notched three goals and one assist each. McCarthy led the team with 13 total shots, while Stewart continued a hot streak. This is Stewart’s second consecutive game with multiple goals, a result of an 87.5 percent on target rate through two contests this year. The match was close after one quarter, as Mercer only led by a score of 2-1 entering the second quarter. As soon as the second quarter started, however, Mercer began to pull away. Parker Junod scored just 34 seconds into the second quarter, and the lead continued to grow. Mercer’s defense held Lenoir-Rhyne to just a single second quarter goal. By halftime, the score was 7-2. Mercer continued to pull away. The team outshot Lenoir-Rhyne, taking 57 shots to Lenoir-Rhyne’s 17. The shooting difference played a part in Mercer’s ten second half goals. Mercer also outbattled Lenoir-Rhyne in ground balls, notching 33 to their opponents’ 18. The dominant win puts Mercer at 1-1 on the season. The matchup marks the first time the two programs have met, and also gave Mercer its first win of the season. Lenoir-Rhyne is a Division II team and considered the matchup an exhibition, though they ranked eighth in the Division II USILA poll. The men’s lacrosse squad wins this game coming off of a 9-7 loss to Bellarmine in their opening match on Jan. 30. With two games of experience now under their belt, the Bears will look to match the momentum of their shortened 2020 season. Mercer had a 6-1 record in 2020 before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mercer will look to pull off a major upset next, as they travel to Durham, North Carolina, to play against the #1 ranked Duke Blue Devils Feb. 13.
Major League Baseball’s offseason always throws sparks, but with contracts in limbo due to COVID-19, nothing was certain this past year. The 2020-2021 free agency offseason period for MLB was eventful regardless, so here are all of the moves you might have missed that will bring extreme change to the 2021 season. Padres go for the gusto, chase Dodgers The San Diego Padres broke out during the 2020 season, with stars Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. becoming household names on the diamond. Their newfound talent was not enough to push them past the Los Angeles Dodgers, however, as they lost against their NL West rivals in the postseason. Many teams would be satisfied with such a breakout season. Padres General Manager A.J. Preller was not. San Diego exploded onto the free-agent market this offseason, signing star pitchers Yu Darvish and Blake Snell to new contracts and even landing a significant international free agent in the form of Korean star fielder Ha-Seong Kim. The team also traded for veteran pitcher Joe Musgrove to bolster the rotation. San Diego was short-handed with pitching this year; their two standout pitchers were injured during the postseason. Their bats could carry some of the weight, enough so that they won a postseason series against St. Louis, but the pitching lagged too far behind in their loss to the Dodgers. So what does the Padres front office do? They sign two of the biggest pitching free agents in the entire league. Problem solved? Perhaps, but the Padres and their fans will eagerly await the 2021 season to find out. Blue Jays break into the AL East arms race While most would argue that the Padres and their pitcher signings are the biggest news of the offseason, fans would be remiss to leave the Blue Jays out of the conversation. With the Yankees and Rays dominating the AL East division for the past few seasons, the Blue Jays have slowly been rebuilding their team to make a run at the postseason. This build finally reached its peak in the 2020-2021 offseason. To start, Toronto signed superstar outfielder George Springer to a six-year contract. This filled one of their biggest needs and turned some heads around the baseball world. Then they signed lights-out closer Kirby Yates. After him came shortstop Marcus Semien, who finished third in 2019 MVP voting. As if that wasn’t enough, now they’ve signed starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood and are looking for more. Paired with the outbreak of talent from players like rookie Bo Bichette and breakout hitter Teoscar Hernandez, Toronto has fleshed out its roster in an attempt to become competitive again. While many think they still need to sign some starting pitching to fully make the jump, it looks like the Blue Jays are ready to make noise in their division again. NL East will be a bloodbath Many analysts predicted that if the right signings were made in the offseason, the NL East division would be one of the most competitive divisions in all of baseball. Who knows if these were the changes they expected, but it looks like the teams in the division are going to be neck-and-neck with each other once again. The New York Mets signed generational shortstop Francisco Lindor to a new multi-year contract. The Philadelphia Phillies finally extended J.T. Realmuto, giving him the largest annual average contract for a catcher in the history of Major League Baseball, according to CBS Sports. The Braves signed talented veteran pitchers Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to one-year deals to help shore up their young pitching core. The Nationals acquired fan-favorite sluggers Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber to boost their offense. Even if the Marlins are the outlier because they have not made any moves this offseason, the other four teams in the NL East have all made great offseason moves to keep up with each other in what should be one of the most competitive groups in all of baseball for 2021. With all of these players finding their new homes across the league, there are even more that have still not signed. Two of 2020’s biggest superstar names —Trevor Bauer and Marcell Ozuna — are free agents. Neither has signed with a team. As the 2021 season approaches, fans will watch closely to see what other events will alter the landscape of another exciting year of baseball.
The Georgia sports curse has struck again. Amidst a strange year for humanity and sports alike, one constant remains: a major sports team in the state of Georgia has blown a commanding postseason lead. The Atlanta Braves led the Los Angeles Dodgers by a margin of three games to one in the NLCS this October. Even with this advantage, the Braves lost three consecutive games to the Dodgers and let the lead slip out of their grasp, disappointing fans yet again and beginning another offseason on a bitter note. Set aside this painful ending to a fantastic season for a moment, though: the Braves took the best team in baseball to seven games and were with them every step of the way, even with a major deficit in the pitching department. This is something Braves fans haven’t seen since the dynasty days in the 1990s, as Atlanta hadn’t won a single postseason series since 2001 prior to this year’s playoffs. So, Braves fans: don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. But through that smile, there’s one question Atlanta baseball pundits and fans everywhere should be asking. How can the Braves make themselves even better for 2021? Two words: Marcell Ozuna. Analysts and writers everywhere are making this into a harder decision than it should be. The Atlanta Braves need to re-sign the red-hot bat of Marcell Ozuna this offseason, and there’s no question about it. Ozuna, a one-year signing off of the free agent market this offseason by Atlanta, scorched every team he played against this season at the plate. His .338 batting average, 2.3 WAR and insane 175 OPS+ demonstrate that perfectly well on their own. In case those monster statistics were not enough to prove Ozuna’s offensive worth, he was also inside the 94th percentile or higher in several crucial hitting stats including xwOBA, Hard-Hit %, xBA and the ever-important Exit Velocity, according to SB Nation. Some critics may point to Ozuna’s defense while he played left field for the Braves this year. The outfielder occasionally looked baffled on the left side of the stadium, and his defensive metrics reflect this: his DRS for the year clocks in at -2 while his UZR for 2020 was -2.7, according to FanGraphs. These defensive questions are easily answered by a variety of factors. First, Ozuna’s offensive value for the Braves this season was unmatched by all except potential MVP Freddie Freeman. Second, the DH may be implemented in the National League next year, allowing Ozuna to hit without having to even play in the outfield. Third, the Braves signed Ozuna last year before the DH was going to be a feature in the NL for 2020, so the front office and management were clearly prepared to sacrifice some defensive value for his bat. There’s one asset Marcell Ozuna brings to the Braves’ team, however, that cannot be represented in a statistic or a front office decision: Ozuna brought life to this Atlanta squad. Throughout the entire season, Ozuna fought at the plate and became a fixture in Atlanta’s clubhouse culture. This can be traced all the way back to the earliest parts of the season when Ozuna saved the Braves’ hopes of a win in just the second game of the year. On July 25, Ozuna hit a game-tying solo home run to give the Braves another shot at beating the New York Mets. Atlanta would go on to win 5-3, but something more important lies in the footage of that Ozuna blast in the 9th inning. Go back and find the clip. Watch Ozuna round first base after he smashes the ball out of the yard. Keep an eye on his hands. In the second game of the year, before the Braves’ postseason run, before they lost their ace pitcher, before Ronald Acuña and Ozzie Albies were injured, before they swept the Reds and Marlins in their first two postseason series to advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2001, something happened. Before all of this, Ozuna started it all. As he trots around the bases after a clutch home run, Marcell Ozuna is mixing it up. This iconic celebration, a staple of the Braves’ incredible season and thrilling playoff run, was not born late in the season. It was not started by team leader and veteran Freddie Freeman or young star Ronald Acuña and definitely not team manager Brian Snitker. One of the defining pieces of the Braves’ identity as a team during this memorable season was started by a player new to the team. This should tell any Atlanta Braves executive, player or fan all they need to know. Ozuna has been at the heart of this team and deserves to be re-signed and kept as a member of the core. Besides, how will the Braves mix it up next year without him?
The 2020 World Series was an exciting one, featuring some excellent individual performances and some inspiring narratives. But if you’re a typical college student or anyone with work to do, chances are you couldn’t catch every iconic moment of the championship games. So without further ado, here are the two best player stories you need to know after the 2020 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays. “Some dude named Randy” is a complete beast While plenty of players stepped up for both teams, Tampa Bay’s star rookie Randy Arozarena continued his insane postseason run during the World Series despite critics citing a “hot streak” at the plate that was bound to end. Despite the Dodgers’ talented pitching rotation featuring accomplished arms like Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, Arozarena managed to hit for a .364 batting average and a whopping 1.234 OPS, leading the Rays for the World Series, according to Baseball Reference. That just continues a streak for Arozarena this postseason, as his stat line for the entire playoffs for 2020 is just as eye-popping. MLB.com shows that Arozarena logged a .377 batting average and 1.273 OPS for the entire postseason in 2020, a set of data even more incredible when you consider he had more postseason at-bats than any other player, according to Baseball Reference. The more astonishing part of this story is that Arozarena was a rookie this season. After playing in only a few games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019, Arozarena was traded to the Rays and exploded once the team made the playoffs. His unknown status prior to the playoffs led to him being dubbed “some dude named Randy” by fans everywhere, making for one of the most exciting underdog tales of this 2020 postseason. Arozarena was flat-out dominant, but who else shined in the 2020 postseason? Corey Seager was a fantastic hitter for the Dodgers, but there is a more important Los Angeles player whose postseason glory was long overdue entering the playoffs this year. Kershaw finally redeems himself If Randy Arozarena’s rise to baseball stardom is the rookie story of the year, then Clayton Kershaw’s redemption arc is the grizzled veteran parallel to it. Kershaw, the Dodgers’ star pitcher who has been dominating in the league for years and is a sure bet to make the Hall of Fame once he retires, has historically struggled in the playoffs. The most recent of these struggles came in last year’s playoffs -- where he allowed back-to-back homers against the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS -- leading to Los Angeles being eliminated from the postseason. These struggles span beyond last year, though. Kershaw has also previously allowed an all-time record of 4 home runs in a single playoff game. Kershaw’s playoff record before 2020 was 9-11 and paired with an ERA over 4, according to CBS Sports. Perhaps the most striking thing about Clayton Kershaw’s lackluster postseason track record, however, is his ERA in elimination games: 5.77 prior to this year. That’s the second-worst ever. But just like Arozarena came from nowhere to write a new narrative, so did the veteran Kershaw. Despite having a slower fastball than ever, despite his team playing in such a strange COVID-19 influenced environment and despite the rampant criticism about his postseason performances in the past, Kershaw dominated in the playoffs. Kershaw notched a 4-1 record while racking up a 2.93 ERA over 30.2 innings pitched. The stats don’t set the world on fire, of course, but they showcase what Kershaw had failed to be in the playoffs until 2020: a dependable and great pitcher. It should be noted that the lone loss came in Game 4 of the NLCS where Kershaw was solid for six innings, only for the opposing pitcher Bryce Wilson to allow just a single hit over his six innings. In every other start of the postseason, Kershaw gave the Dodgers exactly what they needed and helped lead them to a World Series title. Looking back on the 2020 MLB Postseason, it’s safe to say that the narratives and matchups did not disappoint. With the season over and champions crowned, MLB players, fans and executives will look towards the MVP and Awards voting and the offseason in the future.
As the Major League Baseball playoffs approach quickly, more teams than ever are still in the mix for a postseason appearance. This has a lot to do with the new playoff bracket system being used by MLB this year due to the 60-game season. Here’s how the new playoffs for baseball will work and some of the pros and cons of the brand new look. Who gets in? Instead of the tradition 10-team playoff format fans have been accustomed to since it was introduced in 2012, MLB will put a 16-team format into place, as outlined by ESPN. The 16-team template will feature eight teams from the National League and eight from the American League, including the winners of each division: East, Central and West in both NL and AL. The big kicker here is that the second place teams from each division will make the playoffs as well, a development that drastically changes the landscape for the entire league. There will also be two additional Wild Card teams in the NL and AL that are granted a postseason berth based off of win-loss record. Due to the increase to eight teams per league, the Division Series games won’t be the first playoff matchups we see. Instead, there will be four separate best-of-three series in each league, then the four winners will participate in the Division Series. After those initial matchups, the postseason will proceed in the same fashion it has since the Division Series was introduced in 1994. While the first set of games will occur in the higher seeded teams’ home stadiums, all playoff games from the Division Series and onward will be played within a “bubble” similar to the ones used by the NBA and NHL. The NL bubble will be located in both Houstin and Arlington, Texas, while the AL will be located in San Diego, both according to CBS Sports. So these are the teams that make the playoffs this season as we enter the final week of the regular season in late September. But what does this new, short season adjusted bracket mean for baseball this year and in the future? What does this improve? This one has an easy, obvious answer: more baseball. There will be at least two games in every one of those best-of-three matchups, and there’s eight of those total. That’s a guarantee of at least 16 additional broadcast baseball matchups on top of the traditional DS, Championship Series and World Series games fans will get to see. If you’re a baseball fan, this is obviously fantastic news in the short term. But if you’re MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, this means something even more important for the future of the game: more revenue. Since MLB teams have not allowed fans this season, the league has to try and make back as much revenue as possible after not having ticket sales to help fund teams. More games not only means more networking deals and more sponsorships, but more raw exposure for more teams. If a team like the Miami Marlins, a squad projected to flop this year that is now fighting for a playoff spot in the NL East, can make the playoffs, then they can market themselves as a contender and make strides as an organization. How does this hurt certain teams or the entire league? The new playoff system is not without its flaws, though. One major problem lies in the small sample size of those best-of-three series to open the postseason. Take a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have been dominating the NL West and own a Major League leading 38-15 record as of Sept. 20. The Dodgers will have to play a team who have barely scraped into the playoffs as the eight and last place seed in their opening round playoff series. But what if Los Angeles loses just two measly games and are completely eliminated from World Series contention as a result? This has been a season rampant with small sample sizes, but three games for a playoff series is particularly low. It’s entirely possible that the Dodgers could lose to a hot Wild Card team. While some fans might see this as a pro rather than a con, it will undoubtedly be a cause for controversy throughout the league. The upsets will be exciting if they happen, of course, but the what-ifs may haunt certain powerhouse clubs for years to come. Speaking of small sample sizes, the number and variety of teams played for each club could play a negative role in the postseason this year as well. A great example of the schedule anomaly this season is the Chicago White Sox status. The White Sox have fielded one of the most exciting, young lineups this year, notching a 34-18 record as of Sept. 20 and dominating their home AL Central division. While the Sox have been dominant, they have faced the problem of facing limited opponents. Because of COVID-19 protocols, each team has been limited to playing teams only within their own Central region. For the Sox, this means a disproportionate amount of games against bottomfeeders like Kansas City and Detroit, teams that have provided little resistance to Chicago’s high-powered offense. While this is great for the White Sox’s record, it means they lack experience against teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, who are in the AL East. The Rays, who boast a 35-19 record, have had to face a slew of powerful offenses that includes the Yankees, Braves, Blue Jays and Phillies. But the Sox have played mostly middling teams this year so will they be able to handle a squad with the experience of Tampa Bay in the postseason? With all these questions about the postseason in mind, teams across the league will fight for a spot in the new playoff format to conclude the regular season at the end of September. According to CBS Sports, the MLB Postseason will officially begin on Sept. 29.
COVID-19 has meant a lot of industries suffering, but movie theaters are among the often forgotten ways of leisure in the new hyper-serious and uneasy wake left by the coronavirus pandemic. Movie theaters across the country have had to close as a result safety problems due to COVID-19, and the sole movie theater here in Macon was no exception. But as communities everywhere begin to try and establish a new normal, what does a trip to the movies look like as 2020’s chaotic course comes to a close? How safe are the movies? Movies are bound to look and feel a lot different in theaters now, but AMSTAR 16 in Macon seemed serious about abiding by all the measures laid out by their ownership in accordance to CDC Guidelines. Movie-goers must sit three seats apart from anyone that is not in their party. Masks have to be worn everywhere except for in the theater, where they can be removed once you are seated. Social distancing is also required while standing in line at the entrance, concessions and restrooms. Staff are also required to wear masks and complete health check protocols. Along with social distancing guidelines, AMSTAR 16 and other theaters in its chain are cleaning individual auditoriums after each screening. High touch surfaces in the lobby and hallways are cleaned every thirty minutes by staff members. The theater has also installed MERV filters within its HVAC systems. All of these guidelines are mandated and outlined by Grand Theaters, the chain in charge of AMSTAR 16 here in Macon. Now, with all this safety in mind, there is still a considerable risk in going to the movies. Being indoors with large groups of people you have never met before is always concerning in the age of the pandemic, but the limited seating in auditoriums helps a bit. Another thing that can help is timing. Attending a screening of “Tenet” on a random Tuesday at 9 p.m. meant that the rest of the theater was empty. Going to the movies at atypical times means less crowds to deal with, which will certainly help your movie experience and possibly your schedule while you’re at it. So the safety of heading to the movies is being taken fairly seriously by the theater, although the sincerity with which guests treat certain “recommendations” given by the AMSTAR 16 will obviously vary from guest to guest and is dependent on show times. With all of these factors in mind, though, the question remains: what am I even going to watch if I go to the movies? “Tenet” can be hard to follow, but still good fun “Tenet” is a Christopher Nolan spy thriller that has been the main blockbuster charged with bringing audiences back to theaters. Nolan’s films have always attracted a dedicated fanbase, especially after his work on hits like “Inception” and “Interstellar,” so it seemed natural for the film to be the first major summer blockbuster to officially be released in theaters once they reopened. While many reviewers have dubbed “Tenet” to be “Bond on acid,” the film isn’t quite that wild, although it does have its fair share of twists and turns. The plot centers around lead John David Washington’s character, dubbed “The Protagonist.” Washington discovers that there are ways for objects, including humans, to be cast backwards through time. This isn’t time travel, however: the objects literally have to travel through time in order and are not able to jump to specific points in time.This is called “inversion,” and when The Protagonist goes on a quest to solve the mystery, he ends up needing to save the world. That’s the general plot of the film, barring some major spoilers. Overall, the action sequences are fun, Washington has some great moments as the lead of the film and pairs well with sidekick Robert Pattinson and the plot is engaging throughout. The movie even seems slightly aware of the importance of its casting of a Black lead in a suave, UK-style spy flick. Washington and Nolan favorite Michael Caine debate the classiness of Washington’s Brooks Brothers suit and Britain’s “monopoly on snobbery,” and Washington delivers quips that wouldn’t fit in a run-of-the-mill white Bond picture. But while the movie is a fun watch, there are pieces of it that slip through the cracks. The “inversion” of people and objects is explained, but not very well. The movie attempts to fit a lot of plot and time manipulation into a small time frame, and sometimes it falls slightly flat. If the viewer is willing to set aside fully understanding the inversion concept that helps the movie keep moving, it can still be a fun watch. But treating this more ambiguous “science” with the same amount of scrutiny as the hard science in “Interstellar” that was researched by physics scholars will not yield fond results. There are also problems with the audio that have been pointed out by many fans and critics. Articles and reviews by IndieWire, The Guardian and Variety all outline the same issue with the mixing in Nolan’s latest film: you can’t hear what anyone in the film is saying. Forbes film critic Scott Mendelson blasted the film’s audio: “I sat dead center in the third row of an IMAX auditorium while wearing my hearing aides, and I still had a terrible time understanding much of the dialogue,” Mendelson said. “For a film that’s supposed to show audiences that theatrical moviegoing is worth saving, ‘Tenet’ will probably play better on Blu-ray with the subtitles turned on.” While this take is pretty scathing and unforgiving, the audio is a problem. In a movie that relies on gobs of exposition to help the audience keep up, dialogue can’t be hidden beneath sound effects and music. The result is the movie being even more confusing than it should be, and many viewers took note of the problems and lamented, whether they were fans or critics. Overall, “Tenet” is still a fun movie with exciting action sequences, likeable characters and suspenseful plotlines. The film is able to partially overcome its expositional and sonic problems to provide an intriguing escape that can get people back into theaters. If the viewer can suspend their understanding of the time inversion mechanics in the film, it still plays extremely well. Should you prioritize going back to the movies? Perhaps not, but if you choose a less popular time to see “Tenet,” you won’t regret it.