ATHENS, Ga. – Mercer was eliminated from the 2019 NCAA Baseball Championship Athens Regional with a 10-6 loss to FAU on Saturday afternoon at Foley Field.
The fourth-seeded Bears (35-29) made it interesting with a five-run eighth inning after facing a 10-0 deficit. Mercer cranked out 12 hits, but just two over the first six innings as they dropped their second game in as many days after a weekend-opening loss to host Georgia on Friday night. No. 2 FAU (41-20) stayed alive with the victory and will face the loser of No. 4 Georgia and Florida State on Sunday.
Mercer's five-run frame was sparked by a solo home run from Kel Johnson, Alex Crotty and Trevor Austin tallied RBI singles before Bill Knight doubled to left field to plate another pair of runs and cut the Owls' lead in half. Collin Price added another solo home run in the bottom of the ninth to make it a four-run contest.
Despite the 12 hits, Mercer could not muster any support for starting pitcher Sawyer Gipson-Long, who left the game after the fourth with a 5-0 deficit. FAU used consecutive singles and a sacrifice fly to plate the first run of the game in the third inning. A four-run fourth inning extended the Owls' lead to five; Bobby Morgensen hit one of his two home runs, a two-run shot, against Gipson-Long in the five-hit frame.
Mercer had an early chance to strike offensively with runners on the corners and no outs in the second, but left Collin Price (walk) and Yeager (single) stranded. Another threat arose in the seventh when Mercer loaded the bases before two pop-outs halted the momentum.
Six Bears – Nick Spear, Taylor Lobus, Kevin Coulter, Kyle Bialousz, Peyton Berry and Andrew Kane – handled relief duties out of the bullpen. Mercer's staff held FAU scoreless in four of the final five innings.
» #4 Mercer: 35-29
» #2 FAU: 41-20
Pitchers of Record
» Win: Jacob Josey (2-0)
» Save: Zach Schneider (16)
» Loss: Sawyer Gipson-Long (8-4)
» Mercer fell to 1-8 all-time in NCAA regional play.
» Friday marked the 28th all-time meeting between Mercer and FAU.
» Kel Johnson's home run was his 23rd of the season and 56th of his career. He hit the second most home runs by a Mercer player in a single season.
» Kyle Dockus (1-for-3) led Mercer with four hits in two games in Athens.
» Sawyer Gipson-Long fell one strikeout shy of 100 for the season. His 99 strikeouts are the 11th most in a single season by a Mercer pitcher.
» Nick Spear's 36th pitching appearance gave him the fifth most in a single season in program history.
» Mercer's 64 games played are a program single-season record.
» Mercer finished the 2019 campaign with 35 wins, marking its 10th consecutive season with 35 or more victories dating back to 2010. Mercer, LSU, Florida State and Vanderbilt are the only programs to do so.
"I wish we had started off like the finish, but it just didn't happen that way. But I thought we fought hard at the end. I really did, and I thought Sawyer [Gipson-Long] gave us a good start. One thing about Florida Atlantic is they don't give any at bats away. That's a tough offensive lineup now. So they're older, they're experienced. It's a really good team and, man, it's tough to get them out. That's a really good lineup, and you guys saw that they have guys who can hit the ball out of the park, and defensively, they're solid. It's a really good club, and I thought we played well today. We just ran up against a team that was better."
On his thoughts on Mercer's finish and his 23rd home run of the season…
"It was exciting. You know, when I went up to bat, I think I was 0-3 going into that. I had hit one good the time before, and the guy scaled the wall and brought it back. I was trying to get us going a couple of innings before and, you know, I was able to run into one with that at-bat— it was the first pitch fastball— and got the barrel there. Then, like you said, the team started rolling right away. I mean, I think we went through the whole order and recorded one out, you know? And that's what we needed. We needed a big comeback, and we fell a little short, but we definitely fought."
On what the anticipation is like going into next season and what the off-season mindset will look like...
"I think, for now, we'll take a few weeks off and just kind of let the bodies heal a little bit but, I mean, I don't think anybody on the team is really happy with how we finished. I mean, I think earlier in the year if you would have said we'd be here, we might have been surprised. I think now that we're here, you know, we're not happy to just go to regional, you know? We want to go farther than that, and I think every morning when we're waking up, and we're running at six in the morning in the fall, and we're practicing all day long and the weekend stuff like that, I mean, I think this spot right here and kind of the taste in our mouth right now is what's going to be on our mind."