MACON, Ga. - It was not what Mercer softball head coach James DeFeo would have drawn up but his squad was able to earn a doubleheader split against the visiting Florida A&M Lady Rattlers on Wednesday evening at Sikes Field.
The Bears (21-16, 9-3 A-Sun) were hoping for a two-game sweep against a 7-25 Lady Rattlers team in non-conference action on Wednesday, but a sterling pitching performance by Florida A&M pitcher Jennifer Lindsey in game one quickly doused those hopes as the Bears fell 7-4. Mercer responded in game two, eventually run ruling the Rattlers (8-26, 0-1 MEAC), 9-1 in five innings.
A four-run fourth inning by the Florida A&M Lady Rattlers proved to be the difference in game one as a Mercer's late-inning comeback fell just short in a 7-4 loss. The Bears are now just 5-14 this season when they are outhit by their opponents as Florida A&M posted a 9-5 difference at the dish in game one.
The Bears got out to a promising start, jumping out to a 2-1 lead after the first inning as Krista Kennedy drove in junior McKenzie Woody for her team-leading 43 RBI of the season. Sophomore Molly Garmany, who was making her return to the lineup on Wednesday, drove in the second run of the inning on a groundout to short.
In the top of the third, the Lady Rattlers would take advantage of several Bears' miscues to post the eventual game-winning runs. Two Mercer errors led to a bases loaded situation that Florida A&M ultimately scored four runs off of to take a 5-2 lead after three.
Mercer starting pitcher Julia Rice failed to work out of the jam in the third and was pulled in relief for senior Kerri Nidiffer. Nidiffer would finish out the ball game, but the Bears bats were held at bay by A&M's Jennifer Lindsey most of the day. Lindsey allowed just two hits heading into the sixth and by that time the Lady Rattlers were well in control of their lead.
Another Mercer error in the top of the fourth pushed the Rattlers lead to 6-2 as the Bears tried to mount a late game rally in the sixth. Senior Sarah Santana and freshman Ashton Holt both posted doubles in the inning and Garmany knocked in her second RBI of the game to cut the Rattlers lead to 6-4 heading into the final inning.
Unfortunately, the Bears would not get any closer as A&M scored an insurance run in the top of the seventh and the Bears went down in order to end the game. Rice picked up her seventh loss of the season in the process.
Mercer turned things up a notch in game two notching 11 hits and nine runs in a shortened five-inning game. Four Mercer players had multiple hits in game two, including senior Sarah Santana who went a perfect 3-for-3 with four RBI.
Junior Randi Rea began the Bears' scoring in the bottom of the second. With two gone, the Suwannee, Ga. native hit her fourth homerun in the last four games, a towering solo shot to left to give the Bears the 1-0 lead. She now has eight homeruns on the year which is a career high.
Mercer continued the scoring in the third as McKenzie Woody started things off with a triple down the right field line. The triple is Woody's third of the season and she finished the afternoon going 3-for-6 at the plate with three runs scored.
Freshman Marissa Botz followed that up with a double of her own to score Woody and then a Santana single up the middle brought home Botz on the next play to give the Bears a 3-0 after three.
Five hits in the fourth inning led to six runs for Mercer and that proved to be the difference as Julia Rice made quick work of the Rattlers the rest of the way. Rice answered with a strong outing in game two, allowing just four A&M hits and one earned run in her 11th win of the season.