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DELAND, Fla. – The No. 8 seed USC Upstate baseball team pounded out 11 hits through the first four innings Wednesday evening, but top-seeded Mercer erased a four-run deficit and rallied to earn a 12-6 victory at Melching Field on the opening day of the 2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Baseball Championship.
The Spartans (26-29) continue their struggles against the Bears, dropping their 12th consecutive game to Mercer (43-14) in the all-time series. Upstate also comes up short in a bid to win its first Division I postseason game, falling to 0-3 all-time in the A-Sun Championship.
The Spartans drop to the loser's bracket and will take on tournament host and No. 5 seed Stetson University Thursday at 1:15 p.m. in the first elimination game of the championship. The Hatters fell in extra innings to ETSU in the opening game of the championship.
Due to weather altering the first day of games, each contest of the tournament has pushed been pushed back one slot from the original bracket released from the league office.
The Upstate bats were all kinds of trouble for Mercer in the early going, as Gaither Bumgardner and Tyler Lesch recorded hits in each of their first two plate appearances, and Brody Greer extended his reached base streak to 24 games with a single in the second inning.
The Spartans would use that early firepower to push across a run in the second and then Lesch lined a two-out single to left in the third inning to double the lead and make it 2-0.
After Mercer scored a single run in its half of the third, Upstate broke out the bats again in the fourth and recorded four hits, including an RBI single from Jordan Stampler and a two-run base knock by Greer to give the Spartans their largest lead of the day at 5-1.
The powerful offense of the regular season champions took over from there, scoring six runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth to take a commanding 11-5 lead. The Spartans helped the cause in the fourth, hitting three batters, two of which came with the bases loaded and led to the big inning for Mercer.
Upstate went quiet at the plate from there, recording just three hits over the next four innings. Mercer added an insurance run in the seventh and the Spartans tallied an RBI single in the ninth by Erik Samples, but the Bears held on for the 12-6 victory.
Chris Cox (5-4) suffered the loss, allowing six runs on five hits in 3.1 innings of work, while four other Upstate pitchers saw action in the loss.