The Mercer softball team used dominant pitching and timely hitting Sunday afternoon to knock off previously unbeaten Samford 5-1 and win the championship game of the Mercer Invitational at Sikes Field.
With the win, Mercer avenges a 9-8 loss to Samford to open the season and improves to 4-1 on the year with its fourth-consecutive victory.
Anna O'Neill (2-0) was the story of the day in the circle, tossing another gem to pick up her second victory of the season. She went all 7.0 innings and gave up just three hits and one run, while striking out one and walking a pair. In total for the tournament, she recorded 15.0 innings of work and gave up just one run.
While O'Neill was setting the pace in the circle, the offense threatened early but came up empty, leaving runners on base in each of the first four frames before finally breaking through in the fifth inning.
Taylor Miller led off the frame with a single to left field, and after she swiped second base, McKenzie Woody came through with a stand up triple to the gap in right center, sending Miller trotting home and giving Mercer a 1-0 lead. The Bears doubled that advantage moments later when Kaytlin Haney grounded out to bring Woody diving in at home plate for a 2-0 lead.
With two outs and the bases empty in the sixth inning, the Mercer bats came alive again, as Rachel Hugghins coaxed a walk and Carter Riley came off the bench for her first action of the afternoon and belted her second home run in as many days to send Bears racing out to a 4-0 edge.
Mercer would load the bases again later in the inning before Molly Garmany came off the bench walked to bring home another run and make it 5-0. In all, the Bears sent seven batters to the plate with two outs and added four crucial insurance runs.
Samford's only damage came in the bottom of the sixth inning when Hannah Taylor homered to straight away center to make it 5-1, but O'Neill set down the Bulldogs in order in the seventh inning to send the Bears to their fourth-straight victory and the Mercer Invitational Tournament Championship.
The Bears return to action next weekend, traveling to Athens, Ga., to take part in the UGA Tournament. Mercer is set to play five games at Jack Turner Stadium on the campus of the University of Georgia.