FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2014
Mercer slips by Jacksonville to Open Weekend Series
Parker Perez  made a pair of diving catches in center and went 3-for-5 at the plate with a run scored (Photo by Skip Tapp)
Parker Perez made a pair of diving catches in center and went 3-for-5 at the plate with a run scored (Photo by Skip Tapp)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville posted its seventh double digit hitting game of the season but it wasn’t enough as the Dolphins left 12 on base in a 4-2 loss to Mercer on Friday night at Sessions Stadium.

Mercer (17-6; 3-1 A-Sun) was held to just seven hits, but took advantage by scoring on three of the four walks issued by the Dolphins pitching staff.

For the fifth time in six games, Jacksonville (5-14; 1-3 A-Sun) scored in the first inning. Sophomore Dylan Dillard (Kissimmee, Fla.) helped stake the Dolphins to a 1-0 lead in the first with his sixth double of the season that scored sophomore Connor Marabell (Jacksonville, Fla.) from first with two outs.

Working with the 1-0 lead starting pitcher Alex McRae (West Allis, Wis.) was strong on the mound thru the first five innings allowing only four hits and facing 17 batters. After the Dolphins left a pair of runners in scoring position in the bottom of the fifth, McRae (1-4) would run into trouble in sixth. Three walks to the first four hitters set up a bases loaded single to right by Chesny Young that scored two. The Bears added another run later in the inning on a sacrifice fly to take the 3-1 lead

“When you don’t score a lot of runs your pitchers start to have a tendency to feel they have to be perfect every pitch,” said Head Coach Tim Montez whose team was held below three runs for the eighth time this season. “I thought in that sixth inning McRae wasn’t being as aggressive being that it was a one-run ball game. He has to learn that with it being the bottom half of the order just to keep attacking and doing what has gotten him up to that point.”

Despite losing the lead the Dolphins continued to hit and had a chance to retake the lead in the seventh. Back-to-back singles by Parker Perez (Winter Springs, Fla.) and a hit-by-pitch by Dillard loaded the bases up for Scott Schaub (Jacksonville, Fla.). Schaub drew a five pitch walk for his 10th RBI in 12 games this season. Mercer would so to the bullpen and Ben Lumsden ended the Jacksonville rally with a strikeout on a 3-2 count to maintain the 3-2 Bears lead.    

“Our bullpen did a nice job of keeping us in the ball game which allowed us to have a chance,” Montez said of the four Dolphin relievers who combined to allow just two hits in the final three innings.  “Tip your hats to Mercer though, they attacked the zone and played great defense.”

The Mercer defense took a leadoff hit away from the Dolphins in the eighth, but it was a diving catch in the ninth that proved to be the difference. With two runners on and one out, Dillard roped what appeared to be a base hit to left, but the Bears Nate Moorhouse made a head first dive coming in to take it away. Lumsden then stranded both runners once again as he closed out the game with his second strikeout of the night. Morgan Pittman (3-0) picked up the win in relief for Mercer.

Perez, who made a pair of diving catches in center himself, went 3-for-5 at the plate with a run scored. Marabell and Dillard meanwhile each had two hits apiece.

“We have to keep playing defense and keep pitching and keep staying positive and see if someone steps up and provides that spark offensively,” said Montez. “We have another big game tomorrow against these guys with Josh Baker on the mound and our guys will be ready to go.”

The series continues on Saturday at 2:00 pm followed by Sunday at 1:00 pm.  Both games can be heard on 92.5 FM.