MACON, Ga. (School Release) - In a pivotal Atlantic Sun doubleheader on Saturday afternoon, the Mercer softball earned a much-needed split with Florida Gulf Coast. The Bears took game one 7-6 before falling game two 12-5 at Sikes Field.
The Bears (22-22, 10-7 A-Sun) ended a five-game skid in heroic fashion, scoring six runs over the final three innings to take a 7-6 win over FGCU (25-13, 6-4 A-Sun) in game one. FGCU responded in game two with 14 hits and 12 runs to take a 12-5 win, but with the win in game one the Bears have moved up into fourth place in the latest A-Sun standings.
The Bears were just 3-17 on the season when trailing after the fourth inning coming into Saturday's doubleheader against FGCU. That record improved to 4-17 as the Bears caught fire late in game one to score six runs in the final three innings, including three in the bottom of the seventh to cap the come-from-behind win.
Trailing 6-4 heading into the seventh, the Bears were able to plate all three of the winning runs with two outs in the inning. After junior McKenzie Woody and freshman Kaytlin Haney each grounded out senior Sarah Santana began the Bears' rally in emphatic fashion. Santana took a 1-0 offering off FGCU starter Amanda Josie deep to left center for her fifth homerun of the season to make the score 6-5.
After three consecutive walks and two pitching changes, the Bears had the bases loaded. Sophomore Molly Garmany fought off several pitches and worked the count to 2-2. Josie's next pitch, Garmany was able to get a hold of and line a single down the left field line that scored both Krista Kennedy and Ashton Holt.
Freshman Natalie Shiver had a breakout performance in game one as she blasted her first career homerun to right center, a two-run shot that scored Molly Garmany in the process. Shiver also went 3-for-3 with a pair of singles and the homerun.
Junior Randi Rea also continued her hot bat connecting with her tenth homerun, a solo shot to lead off the second inning.
Junior Julia Rice picked up her team-leading 12th win allowing nine hits and six earned runs in her 12th complete game of the season.
The Bears took their first lead of the day in the seventh inning of game one and then jumped out to a promising 4-0 lead in the top of the first in game two. However, FGCU stormed back in the second inning, gouging MU's game two starter Kerri Nidiffer for nine runs. The Bears failed to mount another comeback and ultimately fell 12-5 in game two.
Junior McKenzie Woody, led things off as she has become accustomed to doing with a single in the bottom of the first. A sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch put Woody into scoring position and a Sarah Santana single to left center put the Bears up quickly, 1-0. Three batters later and with two runners on, Randi Rea launched her team-leading 11th homerun of the season and second of the day to give the Bears a commanding 4-0 lead after one.
The lead would be short lived however as FGCU scored nine runs of five hits, including back-to-back homeruns in their half of the second. FGCU's Jessica Barnes hit a grand slam to quickly even the score at 4-4 and then Chelsea Zgrabik followed that up with a solo shot off Nidiffer to give the Eagles the lead which they would not relinquish the remainder of the game.
Nidiffer was pulled after giving up the homeruns and Kristen Bretscher made a short appearance, lasting just three batters before being replaced by Rachel Hugghins. Hugghins who had not pitched since February 8 threw a solid five and two-thirds innings allowing four runs the rest of the way for the Bears.
The Bears generated just seven hits in game two and are now just 5-20 when they are outhit by an opponent. The same two teams return to action tomorrow in the rubber match to finish out the series. Game time is set for 1 p.m.