The Florida Gators (33-26) fell victim to the Mercer Bears (35-11) 4-2 on Wednesday night. Despite tying a school record winning their 11th straight conference win by sweeping Alabama over the weekend the Gators dropped their third-straight midweek contest and haven’t won a midweek game since a 7-1 victory at Florida Gulf Coast on April 15.
You probably first heard of Mercer this year when the Bears took down Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Well, this Mercer team is no Cinderella, ranked No. 24 in the country and winners of eight of their last 10 ball games.
The Bears scored first with a Charlie Madden single to plate Sasha LaGarde in the fourth inning and would never trail in the game.
“It’s just one of those nights, credit Mercer,” Florida manager Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We saw some pretty good arms, they did a nice job and they made pitches when they needed to. We’ve been on the other side of that plenty of times this year.”
Mercer would tack on an insurance run in the fifth inning when LaGarde singled home Michael Massi with two outs in the inning. In fact, Mercer scored all four of their runs on the night with two outs.
While the Mercer bats pushed across runs, Florida struggled to do anything well at the dish. The first 11 batters that Florida sent to the plate were unsuccessful and it wasn’t until Harrison Bader walked with two outs in the fourth inning that the Gators would even get a runner on base. Florida didn’t record their first hit until the fifth inning, going a collective 0-12 before Peter Alonso singled to open things up in the fifth frame.
“I think we went three or four or five innings hitless,” freshman third baseman John Sternagel said. “Especially as hot as we were swinging the bats there, I think it’s kind of weird. I honestly don’t know. I don’t know how that happens.”
The cold bats were especially strange, as Sternagel pointed out, after such a strong offensive performance against Alabama. The orange and blue bats combined to hit 31-100 (.310) against the Tide. The top of he order struggled mightily on the night, hitting just 2-18 (.111) on the night and reigning SEC Player of the Week Casey Turgeon posted an 0-5 night at the plate.
Florida would cut into the lead in the sixth when Taylor Gushue grounded out to score Richie Martin from third base but the Bears quickly added to their lead. In the very next frame, Massi sent a blast over the right field wall, the third consecutive midweek game that Florida has allowed a home run, giving Mercer a 4-1 advantage.
Florida would halve the lead with a Zack Powers sacrifice fly in the eighth but it was too little, too late.
Florida will need to put this loss behind them with a tough Vanderbilt team coming in to start a three-game set Thursday night on national television.
“We’ve got a really good Vanderbilt team coming in, playing on national TV on Thursday night,” O’Sullivan said. “All of our goals are right there in front of us.”