Sunday, April 8, 2018

Paladins earn first series win over Mercer

Allowing a walk-off home run isn't typically the recipe for a fun bus ride home, but an exception could be made for Furman Sunday. While the last pitch of the weekend didn't go their way, quite a few other things did as the Paladins claimed a much-needed series win at Mercer after splitting a doubleheader.

Furman hung on for a 7-6 win in Sunday's first game, clinching its first-ever series win against the Bears. Mercer avoided the sweep with a 3-2 win on R.J. Yeager's ninth-inning home run in the nightcap.

The Paladins (16-16, 2-4 Southern Conference) became the first team to beat Mercer (26-8, 6-3) in consecutive games this season with Sunday's opening win. They're also just the second team in the last three seasons to win a series in Macon, Ga., joining Samford in 2017.

"That's about as gritty of a week as you can have. We're down 10-0 midweek, come back and win (over Georgia State Wednesday) and then go on the road to probably the hardest place in the Southern Conference to play and take two of three," Furman coach Brett Harker told Dan Scott afterwards. "That's an unbelievable week for us and I'm really proud of it. One swing of the bat and losing in the bottom of the ninth's not going to change that."

Furman 7, Mercer 6
Furman overcame striking out 15 times as a team and a four-run ninth-inning rally by Mercer to win Sunday's first game. Freshman Jared Mihalik's incredible week continued as he blasted a three-run home run to stake Furman to a 3-0 lead in the first inning.

Bears starter Chase Burks (4-2) shut down the Paladins for the next five innings before the bats came back to life in the seventh. Ben Anderson had an RBI-double before Jason Costa followed with a two-run homer. Brandon Elmy capped the four-run inning with an RBI-single.

Much like on Friday's first game of the series, Mercer didn't go down without a fight. After the Bears drew four consecutive one-out walks in the ninth, Jake Crawford came on in relief for Furman. Crawford allowed runs to score on an infield single and wild pitch, but got the final two outs for his first save of the season and 10th of his career.

"When we had to make the pitch and had to make the play, we did just that," Harker said. "We bent, but we did not break and I'm proud of that."

Freshman Matt Lazzaro (3-4) allowed two runs on seven hits in six innings for the win. He had one walk and three strikeouts. Lazzaro was the first left-handed starter to beat Mercer this season as the Bears entered Sunday with a 10-0 record against southpaw starters.

Anderson, Costa and Mihalik had two hits apiece to lead the Paladins.

Mercer 3, Furman 2
The beat continued for Mihalik to open game two of the twinbill with a two-run homer in the first. It's the fourth consecutive game with a long ball for Mihalik.

A pair of Furman errors helped Mercer cut the lead in half in the bottom of the first. Jordan Ammons led off the bottom of the second with a game-tying home run.

It stayed 2-2 until the bottom of the ninth when Yeager led off by clubbing Jordan Beatson's 2-0 pitch over the leftfield fence for the walk-off homer.

After going eight excellent innings against Mercer in Furman's 6-1 win at last year's SoCon Tournament, Grant Schuermann turned in another brilliant performance against the Bears Sunday. Schuermann allowed two runs, one earned, on six hits in eight innings. He had no walks and six strikeouts.

"That's about as good as you can throw the baseball. His changeup was plus-plus, he mixed in a breaking ball and his fastball location was awesome," Harker said. "He competed his tail off and I more hate it for him that we couldn't figure out how to scratch another run."

Mercer reliever Robert Broom, who led the SoCon in ERA and wins entering the series, got a measure of revenge against Furman. After allowing five runs in Friday's loss, Broom (7-1) shut out the Paladins over the final 4 1/3 innings Sunday. He gave up one hit, no walks and struck out six.

Furman returns to action Tuesday, hosting Winthrop at 6 p.m.

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