In a semester that’s been plagued by sex offenders, rising tuition, and questionable awards, Mercer students may find a bit of solace in a baseball team that has brought real acclaim to the college.
The Vikings split a two game series against third ranked Lackawanna on Sunday April 23, bringing their record to 35-11 and another day closer to the junior college world series.
Freshman Erik Bowren, team captain says, “We’re 45 games in right now, it’s been a long season but were starting to hit our stride. [There’s] definitely a lot of energy in the dugout and we saw that yesterday for sure.”
Behind an offensive explosion, and a solid outing by sophomore pitcher Dennis Brady the Vikings were able to take care of Lackawanna in game one of the series by a score of 11-2. However they fell short of a sweep with a 5-2 loss later that afternoon.
With Mercer currently the second seed in the state rankings and Lackawanna currently ranked third, there was a greater emphasis on these two games, particularly for the Vikings after already getting swept by top ranked Morris last weekend. Regardless, both teams acknowledged the importance of these two games, as there is a high likelihood that these two teams will meet again in May.
Head coach for Lackawanna, Bruce Thompson, told The VOICE, “We know Mercer is a really good program, they have a history of success, we know that every time we come to [this] campus we’re gonna be in for a dogfight.”
The Vikings will now get to finish off the regular season with five of their last seven games at home, an advantage much appreciated by Mercer’s players as it gives them ample time to rest, and the student body an opportunity to catch a game as the weather improves.
According to sophomore starting pitcher, Andrew DiPiazza, “A lot of games away to start off the season because we like to finish up towards the end of the season at home so we get a lot of rest.”
The Vikings will welcome any advantage they can get for this final stretch of games. With playoff seeding on the line the weight of each win is magnified with every passing game. “Every game matters, our goal is to win a national championship. The NJCAA now seeds the world series record, strength of schedule and momentum all factor into those rankings.
Head coach Kevin Kerins says, “It is very important to be healthy, rest and playing well for regional weekend.”
As the semester comes to a close as well, the coming weeks are likely to bring some excitement to Mercer’s campus, and in the wake of several undesirable circumstances that Mercer has endured this spring, Vikings baseball may serve as a welcome distraction.
Coach Kerins says: “As an alumni and former player at mercer I can tell you that mercer is a special place. I myself have used my experiences here to springboard to opportunities that were not available to me out of high school. We are building something unique and special with our baseball program here. Though the playoffs are entirely on the road this season we are hopeful we can continue to bring positive attention and national recognition to the college and our student athletes.”
The team will be wrapping up the regular season on May 4 for their final home game against Anne Arundel, and post season play will begin Friday May 12 at a venue that has yet to be determined.