After suffering a walk-off loss 3-2 on Sunday Mercer Baseball bounced back yesterday with a 5-2 victory over Vincennes University of Indiana to stay alive in the double elimination format for the National Junior College Athletic Association Div.II World Series held in Enid, Oklahoma.
The win was the Vikings 40th (40-7), marking the first time the Mercer Baseball Program has reached 40 wins in school history. The victory also gives the Vikes a chance to avenge Sunday’s loss as they play a rematch against Pasco-Hernando State of Florida at 4:30 PM ET today.
The loss to Pasco came in the bottom of the 10th inning of the first game of the tournament for both teams when PHS centerfielder Alex Pridee lined a two-out double into the right field corner that eluded a diving Joe Santospago. The ball squirted away from Santospago into foul territory allowing catcher Alex Ramsey to score from first with the winning run.
Similar to Fenway Park in Boston, the right field fence in Enid wraps around in a semicircle before squaring in the corner, meeting up with the stands in foul territory. “This ball park has lots of quirks to it,” Mercer Head Coach Kevin Kerins told The VOICE, “that right field corner is very tricky as we learned.”
Santospago atoned for Sunday’s mishap by making a leaping catch against the wall in that same right field corner yesterday to rob Vincennes leftfielder Logan Coughlin of a home run in the bottom of the 9th.
Reliever Charlie Morreale got the next hitter to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the game.
The freshmen Santospago went one for three offensively with a home run in the bottom of the 8th to give Mercer some insurance heading to the 9th.
Santospago was not sure the ball would go out off of the bat, “I really didn’t get it all, but I got a little air under it and it carried,” the freshmen said of his home run, adding, “the ball travels differently in this park.”
Santospago thought his positioning helped him make the catch in the 9th as he told The VOICE , “I was playing deeper than normal,” he said, adding, “my adrenaline was pumping and I was able to make the catch.”
Sophomore right-hander Ben Stine earned the win going 8+ innings allowing two earned runs on six hits with three strikeouts. Stine improved his record to 8-1 on the year sporting a 2.35 earned run average, with 59 strikeouts in 76.2 innings pitched.
Today Kerins sends right-hander Joe DiGiovanni to the mound against Pasco in his first start at the NJCAA World Series as the “win or go home” scenario means the Vikings will play everyday until they are defeated or a champion is crowned.
If the Vikes are able to keep winning they will pitch freshmen Matt Gall tomorrow, and Charlie Morreale on Friday, lining up ace Heath Fillmyer for the championship game.
The depth of the pitching staff will be tested, but Kevin Kerins is not concerned, he feels his team has been groomed for this challenge, “I believe we have the deepest pitching staff here,” he said.