MACON, Ga. (April 24, 2009) - The Lady Bucs received solid pitching efforts by both Marissa Hardy (Rocklin, Calif.) and Darci Gilbert (Murfreesboro, Tenn.); however, Mercer shut down the ETSU offense and swept the visitors from Johnson City out of Sikes Field on Friday evening.
Hardy allowed one run on three hits but still suffered the loss in game one, as Mercer's Jenni Holtz tossed her 11th shutout of the season and the Bears hung on for a 1-0 win. Despite allowing one earned run (four runs total), Gilbert was tagged with the loss after Lacey Richardson and Holtz combined to blank the Lady Bucs for the second time in as many hours to cap off the sweep with a 4-0 victory in the nightcap.
The Lady Bucs, who clinched a bid to next month's A-Sun Tournament on Thursday, had a chance to move up to the number four seed, but following the two losses ETSU will be left searching to make the fifth slot. A sweep over Kennesaw State on Saturday afternoon would guarantee the Lady Bucs just that.
After being swept for the second straight conference series, ETSU dropped to 24-23, 5-13 in A-Sun play. Meanwhile, Mercer improved to 34-15, 13-5 and the Bears are still in the hunt for a second seed at the conference tournament.
Hardy and Holtz battled in a pitcher's duel in game one, as both hurlers kept the game scoreless until Mercer attacked for its lone one run on three hits in the bottom of the third.
Hardy carried a perfect game into the inning, but Mercer's Megan Rutherford doubled off the left field fence with one out and came around to score the games' only run on Allison Jones' RBI double to left-center. However, Hardy did a tremendous job working out of a jam by leaving three Bear runners stranded when she induced Amanda Santa Maria into an inning-ending fly out to left.
The Lady Bucs put runners on in the first four innings, but Holtz kept ETSU's offense off-balance by getting out of each frame unscathed.
Junior outfielder Katy Jett (Talbott, Tenn.) reached for the second time of the game with her second infield single to short, but Holt forced Amy Campbell (Hixson, Tenn.) to foul out to first - which ended the top half of the sixth.
ETSU posted its only scoring threat in the seventh when junior catcher Trisha Massenzo (Russellville, Tenn.) led off with a single to left - and after Kala Tipton (Church Hill, Tenn.) entered to pinch run - she advanced to second on Hardy's sac bunt. However, Holtz worked out of the mess by forcing Annie Martin (Centerville, Tenn.) to bunt back to the circle and Jessie Hackworth (Clinton, Tenn.) into a game-ending fly out to left.
Holtz earned her 21st win and 11th shutout of the season by scattering five hits and fanning four ETSU hitters. Hardy, who made her 12th start of allowing one run or less, saw her record dip to 14-13 after surrendering one run on three hits and striking out six.
Game Two Recap
Mercer capitalized on ETSU's second fielding error in the second inning by scoring three unearned runs and tacked on an insurance run in the sixth to pull off the sweep with a 4-0 victory.
Lacey Richardson tossed four scoreless innings to earn her 12th win of the year and Jenni Holtz contributed with three innings of one-hit ball to pick up her first save. Gilbert, who was making her first start since March 28th at Florida Gulf Coast, saw her record fall to 8-6 after issuing four runs (one earned) on three hits. The Murfreesboro, Tenn. native also struck out four and walked one.
The Lady Bucs lost a scoring chance in the second when Annie Martin posted a two-out single to right field and Katie Henderson (Jackson, Tenn.) followed up with what looked to be another two-out single; however, after a five minute discussion with the umpires, Mercer's head coach Mike Raynor won a very questionable dispute when they called Martin out for leaving first early on the potential hit to end the inning.
Mercer then struck for three runs on two hits and a costly error in the bottom half of the frame to capture a 3-0 lead. The Bears took full advantage of the second Lady Buccaneer error to begin the bottom of the second and scored one run a wild pitch by Gilbert and another on a passed ball by Trisha Massenzo. Mercer tacked on the third unearned run of the inning with an RBI single up the middle by Holly Oglesbee.
The Bears robbed ETSU of a scoring opportunity in the top of the third when Stacey Condra tracked down a deep fly by Katy Jett on the warning track in center to end the inning - which left Chelsea O'Connor (Knoxville) stranded at second.
In the top of the fifth, Henderson led off with a walk, advanced to second on a passed ball and moved over to third on Marlina Delisa's (Tucson, Ariz.) bunt single. Unfortunately, base running blunders washed away another scoring chance for the Lady Bucs when pinch runner Kala Tipton was caught stealing at third with no outs - and after Delisa moved up to second - Richardson got the next two ETSU hitters to line out.
Once again Mercer's great fielding ended the inning and cost the Lady Bucs a run in the sixth. Following Massenzo's two-out double to left-center, Jessie Hackworth sent a rocket flying to right field, but Megan Rutherford flagged down the ball on the run to make the final out of the inning.
Mercer plated its final run when Brandy Keeter's two-out triple in the sixth scored Sara Stukes from first to make it a 4-0 contest.
Holtz worked a perfect seventh to earn the save.
ETSU wraps up A-Sun play on Saturday when they travel down the road to take on Kennesaw State. First pitch of the doubleheader is set for 2 p.m.
For more information regarding Lady Buccaneer softball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.