TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State’s baseball home opener was a case of bad timing all week, and it was no different when it finally happened Friday evening.
Wednesday’s scheduled opener against Indiana was snowed out, leading to some shoveling and scraping by the Sycamores, their coaches and their support staff to get a weekend tournament started within a couple of hours of its listed time on Friday.
And once on the field to play, the timing didn’t work for ISU either.
The Sycamores made one error: it came with two outs in the top of the third, letting the first run of the game score.
Starting pitcher Daniel Peterson walked just batter, but it came on four pitches to the leadoff batter in the top of the fourth. That set up a two-run inning for Mercer, after the Sycamores had tied the score in the bottom of the third.
The Sycamores didn’t score again, and the visiting Bears put the game away with a six-run eighth inning for a 9-1 win. Mercer also won the tournament opener, scoring in the bottom of the ninth to beat South Dakota State 4-3.
Play resumes today with a second Mercer-SDSU game. The Jackrabbits play ISU at approximately 2:30 and ISU meets Mercer again at 6. No games will be played Sunday as more bad weather looms and both visiting teams have lengthy bus rides home.
Sunshine and warmer weather is expected during play today, and better play is expected from the Sycamores too.
“You’d think in your home opener you’d play a little better than that,” coach Rick Heller said after Friday’s game. “[The Bears] outpitched us, they outhit us and they outplayed us.”
While Mercer isn’t a household name to college baseball fans in the Wabash Valley, the Bears won 38 games a year ago and are 13-2 after their two Friday wins.
ISU had a chance to jump on top in the bottom of the second after hits by Mike Fitzgerald and Jacob Hayes had two runners on with one out, but Mercer starter Grant Papelian induced a pair of grounders.
With two out in the top of the third, leadoff batter Sasha LaGarde beat out a bunt and stole a base; he came home from second when a grounder in the hole got under the glove of shortstop Tyler Wampler.
The Sycamores loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning on a hit by Derek Hannahs, an infield hit by Landon Curry and a walk to Cody Zimmerman. Robby Ort’s sacrifice fly tied the game, but submarining reliever David Teasley got a popup and a strikeout to defuse the ISU rally.
The Bears went ahead for good when the fourth-inning walk was followed by a seeing-eye single, a run-scoring grounder and an RBI double by David Reid-Foley, and Ben Lumsden came out of the Mercer bullpen to retire the first 10 batters he faced in a five-inning scoreless stint.
“We gave a free run away, then we score a run, then we got out and walk the leadoff guy,” Heller said later. “Those are things that get you beat.”
ISU relievers kept the game within reach until an unlucky top of the eighth. With one out an infield hit, a bunt single and a flare down the left-field line that fell for a double started a rally that ended with a grand-slam homer by Logan Gaines, the ninth batter in the Mercer order.
“You knew it wasn’t our night when that happens,” Heller said of the softly hit balls that led to the six runs.
Hayes and Curry had two hits each for ISU. Four of Mercer’s 13 hits didn’t leave the infield.
“There are plenty of excuses if we wanted them,” Heller said, referring to the players’ extra work getting the field ready, “but we just got beat by a good team.”
Preseason All-America lefthander Sean Manaea is expected to start one of the ISU games today.
South Dakota State 100 100 010 — 3 7 5
Mercer 001 010 101 _ 4 5 0
Somsen, Klatt (7), Hodges (7) and Clary, Pack (8); Barker, Kourtis (7), Teasley (8) and Reid-Foley, Barrett (8). W — Teasley, 4-1. L — Hodges, 1-1.
Mercer 001 200 060 — 9 13 0
Indiana State 001 000 000 — 1 8 1
Papelian, Teasley (3), Lunsden (4), Nyquist (9) and Reid-Foley; Peterson, Negele (5), Kuhlman (6), Willard (8), McElderry (9) and Fitzgerald, Steen (9). W — Lumsden, 2-0. L — Peterson, 0-2. HR — M: Gaines (2).
Next — Mercer (13-2) and South Dakota State (8-4) play at 11 a.m. today, followed by Indiana State (3-5) against South Dakota State, then Indiana State against Mercer. No games will be played Sunday, a change from the original schedule.