MACON, Ga. (School Release) - It took three additional innings, but the Mercer softball team secured the series sweep with an 8-7 win over East Tennessee State on Sunday to open Atlantic Sun play at 3-0.
Sunday was Mercer's (14-12, 3-0 A-Sun) fourth extra-inning game this season, moving their record to 2-2 in extended games. The Bears 3-0 start in conference play has the team currently in first place in the A-Sun with four teams yet to play. It is the team's best start in conference since 2009.
Mercer and ETSU combined for 14 runs over the first five innings, yet neither team could break the tie over the next four until Mercer took advantage of the international tie breaker in the 10th. Sophomore Victoria Hugghins, who tied the game in the fifth with her first homerun of the year, was placed on second in the bottom of the tenth.
An ETSU (7-10, 0-3 A-Sun) passed ball advanced Hugghins to third and then with one out freshman Kaytlin Haney drove home the game-winning run. Haney hit a high chopper to second and the Lady Bucs throw home was not in time as Hugghins scored standing up.
Both teams starting pitchers struggled at the outset as Mercer's Kerri Nidiffer lasted just one inning and ETSU's Sam Harrell retired just one out before being pulled.
There were four homeruns hit in the game, beginning first with ETSU's Katie Wolff who hit a three-run homerun in the top of the first to give the Lady Bucs a quick, 3-0 lead.
Mercer countered in the bottom half of the inning as junior Krista Kennedy connected with her team-leading seventh homerun of the year, this time a grand slam to left field. Kennedy went 2-for-5 in the game and now has 26 RBI, which is second-best in the A-Sun.
ETSU's Sam Lower led off the second inning with another homerun which tied the game up at 4-4. A sacrifice fly later in the inning gave ETSU back the lead 5-4.
The Lady Bucs extended their lead in the fourth off a pair of Mercer miscues. A Mercer throwing error and a wild pitch allowed the two runs to score and ETSU had a little breathing room with a 7-4 lead heading into the bottom of the fourth.
The Bears would however respond once again in their half of the inning, capitalizing on two ETSU errors. After four Mercer still trailed by one, but Victoria Hugghins homerun tied things up in the fifth.
Both relief pitchers, ETSU's Katie Wolff and Mercer's Julia Rice
threw nine complete innings and each held the team's scoreless over the game's final four innings before Mercer's game-winning run came across in the 10th
Rice finished with the win and moved her overall record to 7-4 on the year while Wolf was credited with the loss and moves to 2-5. Rice allowed seven hits and two runs, neither of which were earned in the win.
Mercer now heads out on a five-game road trip beginning with a pair of games this Wednesday at in-state rival Kennesaw State. The Bears travel to Northern Kentucky next weekend for a three-game set starting on Saturday.