Bears End Drought
ATLANTA, Ga. – On a bitterly cold Tuesday night, the Mercer baseball team finally broke through to end a 13-year streak of futility versus Georgia Tech, defeating the nation's No. 6 ranked team, 4-2.
Mercer (18-9) had lost 17-straight games in the all-time series and hadn’t defeated the Yellow Jackets since 1998 prior to Tuesday night’s victory.
The loss for Georgia Tech (21-5) also ended the longest current winning streak in the country at 16 games.
“Just a great win for our program over a great team and I am so proud of how tough our guys played tonight,” head coach Craig Gibson said. “Justice French and Russell Moses, two great seniors, pitched great for us tonight and Evan Boyd picked us up late with a big two-out hit.”
Georgia Tech lit up the scoreboard first in the bottom of the first when junior Matt Skole pulled an RBI double into the right-center field gap to take an early 1-0 lead.
That is where things stayed as both Bears’ starter Justice French and Yellow Jackets starter Matt Grimes matched zeros in the second and third innings.
The Rambling Wreck ended the scoreless streak in the bottom of the fourth when freshman Chase Butler singled up the middle to make the score 2-0.
Butler’s hit knocked French out of the game since he exceeded his pre-determined pitch count set by the Mercer coaching staff. The Suwanee, Ga. native pitched very well in his abbreviated outing, however, allowing the two runs on six hits to go along with six strikeouts in 3.2 innings pitched.
Mercer finally broke through off Grimes in the top of the fifth when freshman Derrick Workman sliced an RBI single to left field to cut Tech’s in half, 2-1. The Bears had a chance to inflict even more damage in the frame, but Grimes got senior Joe Winker to foul out with the bases loaded to end the threat.
After a leadoff walk to junior Jacob Tanis to start the sixth, Grimes was pulled from the contest for senior reliever Taylor Wood. Grimes final line included one earned run on three hits and five strikeouts in five innings pitched. The walk proved to be harmless, however, as Wood worked out of the jam to keep Georgia Tech in front 2-1.
The Orange and Black eventually pulled even with the Jackets in the top of the seventh when junior Billy Burns laid down a perfect bunt for a base hit to bring in sophomore Evan Boyd and tie the game at 2-2.
The Bears kept taking advantage of Georgia Tech relief pitching in the top of the eighth when Boyd came up with runners on second and third and pulled a clutch two-RBI double to right field to give Mercer its first lead of the game at 4-2.
Not to be lost in the shuffle of runs Mercer pushed across was the stellar relief pitching of senior Russell Moses. Moses relieved French in the bottom of the fourth and tossed 5.1 innings of shutout baseball to keep the Yellow Jackets offense at bay and secure the comeback win for the Bears.
“Tonight was a great win for us and I hope we can carry this momentum forward for the rest of the season,” said Gibson. “We want to play on this field one more time this season because the way Georgia Tech is going they are on track to host another NCAA Regional.”
Mercer is back on the field when it travels to Buies Creek, N.C. for a three-game Atlantic Sun Conference weekend series with Campbell. Game one of the series is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday evening at Taylor Field.