GREENSBORO, N.C. (May 9, 2018) – The ETSU softball team looks to build upon its momentum as the Buccaneers take on Mercer in the second round of the Southern Conference Championship on Thursday afternoon from UNCG Softball Stadium. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.
The Bucs – who have won four straight games following their 4-1 win over No. 3 Furman – are looking to become the third team in SoCon history to repeat as tournament champions. ETSU (17-25) got home runs from Nikki Grupp (Jacksonville, Tenn.) and Kelsey Smith (Tucson, Ariz.), along with a complete game effort from Madison Ogle (Maryville, Tenn.) to stay atop the winners bracket on Wednesday afternoon.
During this four-game win streak, the Blue and Gold are hitting .309 (34-for-110), while outscoring their opponents, 21-5. The Buccaneer pitchers are holding the opposition to a .189 (18-for-98) batting average, while generating a 1.04 ERA (4 ER/27.0 IP) during this run. In addition, ETSU has won its last five SoCon Tournament games en route to posting a 0.57 ERA (3 ER/37.0 IP), and outscoring its opponents 22-4 over this stretch, which dates back to last season.
Mercer was forced to rally from a four-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning to defeat No. 7 Western Carolina 8-7 on Wednesday. The Bears, who are the No. 2 seed, plated five runs in the sixth inning to cap the comeback.
The Bears are one of three teams in the conference with over 30 wins as Mercer enters Thursday’s game at 33-17.
Mercer is the top hitting team in the conference with a .288 batting average, while ranking third in ERA (2.91). Four players are hitting over .300, including team-leader Megah Rud (.352) and Freshman of the Year Micayla Rood (.347). Caroline Taylor ranks second in the conference in home runs (14), RBI (49), and slugging percentage (.667). In the circle, the Bears have three pitchers that rank in the top-10 in ERA, opposing batting average, strikeouts, and wins. The trio of pitchers include Jill McElderry (9-3, 2.43 ERA), Stella Preston (12-4, 2.47 ERA) and Megan Bilgri (10-8, 3.20 ERA).
Mercer swept the Bucs in the regular season back in March, and the Bears lead the all-time series, 21-13. Prior to this season’s series, ETSU had won three straight and eight of the last 12, which included a 4-3 nine-inning win over the Bears in last year’s semifinal game of the SoCon Tournament.
Five different Buccaneers have hit at least one home run against Mercer in their careers – Nikki Grupp, Kelsey Smith, Kylie Toler, Tiffany Laughren and Malloree Schurr – while Ogle has posted a 2.04 ERA (14 ER/48.0 IP), three wins and one shutout in eight career appearances (six starts) versus the Bears.
The winner of Thursday’s game remains in the winners bracket and takes on the winner of UNCG-Chattanooga Friday at 12 p.m., while the losing team of ETSU-Mercer takes on No. 5 seed Samford in an elimination game Thursday night at 8 p.m.
For more information on Buccaneer softball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the softball link.