NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In a battle for first place in the Atlantic Sun Conference baseball standings, Lipscomb downed Mercer 4-2 on Friday night at Ken Dugan Field at Stephen L. Marsh Stadium.
“Tonight was just a good baseball game between two teams,” said Lipscomb head coach Jeff Forehand. “Luckily for us we got some fortunate hits and scored when we had runners in scoring position. They made a mistake that gave us one run but it was just a good ball game all the way around.”
The Bears (27-9, 10-3 A-Sun) wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as Sasha LaGarde blasted a leadoff, solo home run on the second pitch of the game to give the visitors an early 1-0 advantage.
The lead would not last long however for the A-Sun preseason favorites as the Bisons (23-12, 11-2 A-Sun) answered with a two-run frame in the third.
Junior centerfielder Jonathan Allison reached base on a free pass to get things going for Lipscomb. Grant Massey then reached base on a throwing error by Mercer’s Nick Backlund. Allison stopped at third, while Massey made it to second on the throw that sailed into the outfield. Allison then scored on a wild pitch to knot the game at 1-1 before senior right fielder Drew Adams singled through the right side to plate Massey for his A-Sun leading 42ndRBI of the season giving Lipscomb a 2-1 lead.
The Bisons added another run in the fourth to make it 3-1. With two outs in the inning Adam Lee reached first after getting plunked. Lee then swiped second to get into scoring position for Mike Korte. The junior second baseman poked a ball into shallow left field to plate Lee with the eventual game-winning run.
As the last out of the fourth inning was made, lightning struck in the background sending the game into a two hour and four minute delay but Lipscomb starter Ian Martinez-McGraw was able to pick right back up where he started on the mound.
“Ian’s got a resilient arm and he was able to get back out there and give us a solid performance,” said Forehand. “That’s really hard to do after you sit there so long but he wanted to come back and he just did a great job for us tonight.”
Lipscomb got things going again in the sixth when junior designated hitter Tyson Ashcraft doubled to right. Following a Korte walk, senior catcher Nick Rome hit a ground ball that Mercer shortstop Matt Meeder couldn’t handle and Ashcraft came around to score to give Lipscomb a 4-1 lead.
Mercer tacked on the last run of the game in the eighth after Ian Martinez-McGraw issued a bases loaded walk but the knuckleballer was able to get out of the jam.
Martinez-McGraw improved to 6-1 with the win. The right worked eight and one third innings giving up 11 hits and two runs. He struck out five and allowed three walks. Martinez-McGraw handed the ball over the junior reliever Jason Ziegler in the ninth and the southpaw took care of both batters he faced to collect his third save of the season
Brandon Barker took the loss for Mercer and dropped to 3-2. He pitched seven innings while giving up seven hits and two earned runs with six punch outs and two walks.
The Bisons and Bears return to action at 2 p.m. Saturday for game two of the three-game set.