Spartans Fall to Mercer in Regular Season Finale, 5-2
MACON, Ga. – Needing a win or some help to clinch the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season crown, the USC Upstate baseball team fell at Mercer, 5-2, in the regular season finale at Claude Smith Field.
Mercer, with Saturday's win, improves to 37-19 and 15-12 in the A-Sun and clinched a berth in the conference tournament that begins Wednesday in DeLand, Fla. The Spartans meanwhile dip to 33-18 and 16-10 in league play and will await the final results of Saturday's games to see both who and when they will play in their first-ever A-Sun Tournament game.
In the third, Trey Richardson (Lakeland, Fla.) drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a passed ball. Richardson was able to score on a double along the line in right by Brody Greer (Honea Path, S.C.).
After a Jordan Stampler (Davie, Fla.) foul out, Gaither Bumgardner (Fort Lawn, S.C.) tripled off of the center field wall. Greer crossed home plate on the plate, but was ruled out on an appeal as the umpiring crew said he missed the third base bag. Austin Liput (Oviedo, Fla.) was intentionally walked but the inning came to an end as Luke Weber's (Spartanburg, S.C.) hard liner was snagged out of the air by Mercer shortstop, DJ Johnson.
In the bottom of the fifth, Mercer recorded its first base runner at third as David Reid-Foley doubled to center field and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by DJ Johnson. Reid-Foley scored the Bears' first run on a RBI single to center by Chesny Young. One run was all the Bears managed as Young was caught stealing and Nate Moorhouse struck out swinging.
To open the sixth, Weber doubled off of the wall in left field. After Greg Guers (Langhorne, Pa.) struck out, Tyler Cook (Bloomington, Ill.) reached on an error by second baseman, Logan Gaines. Gaines made a sliding grab but the ball popped out of his glove as he made began his throwing motion allowing Cook to easily reach first while Weber moved over to third. Dillon Way (Orangeburg, S.C.) drove in Weber with a sacrifice fly to left, giving the Spartans a 2-1 advantage. After a single to left by Richardson, Mercer made a call to the bullpen as David Teasley replaced starter Brandon Barker on the mound. Teasley forced Greer to fly out to center to end the Spartan sixth.
Nick Backlund led off of the sixth with a single to right and moved to third as he beat a Stampler tag after a double by Andrew Barrett. Backlund tied the game at 2-2 when he scored on a groundout by Travis Benn. Barrett gave the Bears their first lead of the game, 3-2, as he came around to score on Logan Gaines RBI double to left.
With one out in the seventh, Bumgardner doubled to right center and Liput was intentionally walked. Liput was forced out at second on Weber's fielder's choice that moved Bumgardner to third. Guers struck out to end the inning with two runners on base.
With one out in the seventh, the Bears had runners at first and second to end the day for starter Brandon Lee (Palatka, Fla.). Ben Augenstein (Sebastian, Fla.) replaced Lee and after walking the first batter he faced, he escaped the jam with a pop out and a strikeout to end the seventh.
In the eighth, Way singled to second base then with two outs, Greer walked on four pitches and Stampler was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Unfortunately, all three base runners were left stranded on a ground out by Bumgardner.
Mercer pushed its lead to 5-2 with a two-out, two-run homer to center by Chesny Young in the bottom of the eighth to conclude the scoring in Saturday's contest.
Bumgardner paced the Spartans with a 3-for-5 effort, while Weber added two hits and one run. Lee took the loss and falls to 7-4 on the season after allowing three runs on nine hits with three walks and four strikeouts in 6.1 innings.
Chesney Young led Mercer with a 4-for-5 effort and three RBI. Reliever David Teasley earned the win to improve to 7-0 in 2012. Teasley allowed just two hits and two walks with three strikeouts in two innings.