HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (School Release)- The No. 28 Mercer baseball team earned its first Atlantic Sun Conference Regular Season Title in program history following a dominant 13-4 victory over Northern Kentucky on Saturday afternoon at the Bill Aker Baseball Complex.
Mercer (42-14, 20-7 A-Sun) pounded out a season-high 20 hits in Saturday's win which pulled the Bears into a tie with several other teams for the 18th-most wins in a single-season in A-Sun Conference history.
"What a great accomplishment for our guys to win the regular season championship because it means we have been the best team from start to finish," head coach Craig Gibson said. "This was one of our goals when we started the season and I am really excited about the way our team is playing as we head into the conference tournament. We are 16-4 in our last 20 games, so hopefully we can ride our momentum into tournament play and win a conference championship as well."
The Bears got off to a great start in the top of the first inning, using RBI singles by senior Logan Gaines and junior Austin Barrett and a sacrifice fly by junior Michael Massi to grab an early 3-0 lead.
The Mercer offense kept things rolling in the top of the second when junior Sasha LaGarde followed a triple by senior Evan Boyd with an RBI single to make the score 4-0.
Northern Kentucky starter Tim Clark continued to get knocked around by the Orange and Black in the top of 3rd to the tune of three more runs. An RBI double by Massi, an RBI single by senior Travis Benn and a Norse throwing error pushed Mercer out to a 7-0 lead.
The Norse kept things interesting, however, after scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth to make the score 7-2.
In the end, however, the Mercer bats proved to be too much after Barrett smacked a two-run home run, his second of the series, in the top of the eighth to give the Bears a comfortable 10-2 lead.
That would be plenty of run support for Bears starter DJ Johnson who worked five innings and allowed two runs while striking out four to earn the win and bump his record up to 7-2 in 2013.
Barrett led the way for the Mercer offense, going 4-for-6 with a career-high four RBI. Sophomore Chesny Young extended his hitting streak up to a career-long 25 games after putting together a 3-for-5 day at the plate with two RBI.
Mercer now turns its attention to postseason play as it takes on USC Upstate in the first round of the A-Sun Conference Tournament on May 22. Game time is still to be determined at Melching Field in DeLand, Fla.