MACON, Ga. (School Release) - The Mercer softball team mustered just eight hits between two games in a pair of shutout losses to Jacksonville in Atlantic Sun action from Sikes Field on Friday night.
The Bears were shutout in back-to-back games for the first time all year as Jacksonville cruised to 9-0 and 6-0 wins. Mercer drops to 9-5 in the A-Sun and 21-18 overall with the losses while Jacksonville improves to 7-3 in conference play and 25-10 overall.
With one of the hottest offenses in the A-Sun, the Bears failed to figure out JU's one-two punch of starting pitchers in Cecile Gomez and Dale Tillman. Gomez allowed just two hits and improved to 8-0 on the year in her shutout and Tillman finished up allowing just six hits in her seven-inning shutout in game two.
Mercer dropped its overall record to 8-16 in games when the opponent scores first in game one as Jacksonville quickly set the tone for an easy win in the top of the first. The Dolphins third batter of the game, Sarah Simon took a 3-1 offering from Bears' starter Kerri Nidiffer deep to center for a two-run homerun to give the visiting team a swift 2-0 lead.
The Dolphins next batter Karson Tuck then doubled and was brought home on the next play on a Mercer error and quickly JU had a commanding 3-0 lead. JU came into the series with Mercer as the A-Sun top homerun hitting team and they showed why hitting four homeruns in total between the two games.
Nidiffer would settle in however and did not allow another run to come across over the next three innings. Offensively, the Bears offense failed to generate any run support for Nidiffer as Gomez carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning.
By that time, JU had extended its lead to 5-0 in the top of the fifth as Ashley Simon deposited her ninth homerun of the season over the left center fence for a two-run shot.
The Bears first hit came in the bottom half of the fifth when sophomore Rachel Hugghins looped a single to right. Hugghins would be left stranded in the inning and posed as just one of three base runners left on in the game for the Bears.
With the loss, Nidiffer falls to 10-9 on the year as she threw six complete allowing four earned while striking out one.
Game two starter, Julia Rice faired about as well as Nidiffer did against the talented JU lineup, as the junior from Oak Park, Calif. gave up six runs on 12 hits. JU again struck first as a triple down the right field line off the bat of Codi Kelly brought home Victoria Brown to give the Dolphins a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
Jacksonville tallied a run over the next two innings to push the lead to 3-0, putting further pressure on the Bears bats to produce. The lone highlight for Mercer in game two came in the form of junior McKenzie Woody.
Woody kept pace after going 0-for-3 in game one by accounting for half of the Bears' hit total with a 3-for-4 performance at the dish in game two. She is now just two hits shy of 200 for her career, which will make her just the third Mercer player to reach that mark.
Jacksonville connected with a pair of homeruns off Rice in the fifth as Simon hit her second of the day and Karson Tuck hit a two-run homerun to left to finish out the Dolphins scoring in game two, moving the final result to 6-0. Rice falls to 11-8 on the year with the loss.
These same two teams return to action tomorrow to finish off the series. Game time is set for 1 p.m.