Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Paladins fall in SoCon Tournament opener

Trent Alley went 3-for-4 in Furman's loss to Mercer.
Photo courtesy of the Southern Conference
After winning its final four Southern Conference series of the regular season, Furman hoped to carry momentum into the SoCon Tournament. But in the fifth-seeded Paladins' tournament opener at Fluor Field Wednesday afternoon, any lingering momentum faded fast.

Furman batters combined for no walks and 10 strikeouts. Furman pitchers combined for nine walks and three strikeouts. And for one stretch in the third inning, Furman's defense had more errors in about 17 minutes than it had in the previous 17 days. It all added up to an 11-2 loss to fourth-seeded Mercer.

The Paladins (25-30) will face No. 8 seed Western Carolina in an elimination game Thursday at 9 a.m. Furman avoided trying to stay alive against top-seeded Samford as the Bulldogs rallied in Wednesday's opening game. The Catamounts led 4-0 with two out and nobody on in the bottom of the eighth before Samford scored a pair of runs that inning, added two more runs in the ninth, then got a walkoff home run to start the bottom of the 10th.

Furman jumped out on top in the first inning Wednesday. With two out, Dax Roper singled and came around to score when Trent Alley hit a rocket off the left-centerfield wall for a double.

Mercer (30-26) answered with single runs in the first and second before dealing Furman a back-breaking third inning. The inning started with the first two Bears reaching on groundball errors. After a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk, the Paladins committed their third error of the inning on a dropped pop up in foul territory.

Furman starter John Michael Bertrand struck out the next batter and had a chance to get out of the mess, but his 3-2 pitch to Jordan Ammons missed for ball four to force in a run. Mercer No. 8 hitter Bill Knight followed with a grand slam home run into the Green Monster seats to make it 7-1.

Furman got a run back in the fourth on Logan Taplett's RBI-single, but the Bears piled on with single runs in the fourth and fifth and two more in the sixth to put the game out of reach.

The error-prone third inning Wednesday came after the Paladins combined for just two errors over the final seven games of the regular season. The nine walks issued by Furman matched a season-high last done on April 26. The 10 strikeouts at the plate marked the 22nd game this season in which the Paladins had double-digit whiffs, but only the third time in the past 13 games.

Alley went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, while Taplett and Bret Huebner each went 2-for-4 to lead Furman.

Knight finished with two hits and five RBIs to lead the Bears. Alex Crotty had two hits and three RBIs and Collin Price had two hits and two RBIs also for Mercer..

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