Prep Baseball: Mercer moves to 3-0 with 11-2 win over Garrard
Chris Goodman, hidden, is mobbed by Mercer County teammates as he reaches home plate following his solo home run during the fifth inning of Mercer's 11-2 win over Garrard County on Tuesday. (Mike Marsee / March 19, 2013)
Coach Jeremy Shope is hoping the Titans truly catch fire in a few weeks, when the time will come to make a run at a third straight 12th Region title. But for now, starting the season with three straight wins has created a spark.
Mercer made it three in a row Tuesday with an 11-2 victory over Garrard County at Amos Black Field.
“We want to win ballgames, but I’m not necessarily concerned with wins and losses right now. I’m concerned about us improving, and I have seen it over a three-game stretch,” Shope said. “We keep playing with that enthusiasm, and we’re going to get better.”
Mercer (3-0) scored three times in the first inning and went on to score multiple runs in three innings. Russell Sims, Chris Goodwin and Dylan Logue had two hits each for the Titans, who cranked out 11 hits on a cold day in which a stiff wind drove the wind-chill factor into the mid-30s.
“We’ve come out swinging the bats early this year,” Shope said.
At Garrard, first-year coach C.J. Lynn said he likes the direction his team is headed as well.
“We’re making a lot of progress,” Lynn said. “We’re real young still. At any time, we’ve probably got five or six sophomores starting, It’s just a matter of getting our heads into the game and focusing on what we’ve got to do. We’re doing good early.”
Garrard (1-2) fell behind when starting pitcher Seth Murphy struggled in the first inning. He walked two batters, hit another and threw three wild pitches, and he was hurt by a two-out error that resulted in three unearned runs.
Lynn said Murphy sat out the Lions’ first two games as a result of an ejection in the final game of last season.
“‘Murph’s’ been throwing the ball great in the bullpen and in our scrimmages. ... His jitters are gone, so hopefully we can get back to where he’s pumping strikes more,” Lynn said.
Mercer starter J.T. Long allowed two runs on six hits in three innings, and winning pitcher Jon Banks allowed two hits in three shutout innings. Shope said the Titans’ pitchers had struggled with control in their first two games, but they walked only two batters Tuesday.
And they got plenty of support from a lineup that could be deeper than it was a year ago. Eight of their 11 hits came from the fifth through ninth spots in the batting order, and all nine starters reached base at least once each.
“There’s nothing like competition — competition for positions, competition for at-bats — that drives everybody forward. I think they’ve taken that approach upon themselves to work every day, because they know somebody’s right there knocking at the door,” Shope said.
Long, Sims and Curry Brown had two RBIs each, and Sims and Brown drove in first-inning runs with consecutive two-out singles. Long’s deep double to center field drove in the first run in a three-run fourth inning, and Goodwin homered to center to open the fifth.
Shope said the Titans aren’t taking for granted that they’re on track for a third straight regional title.
“This year’s team’s come out hungry. Once you’ve been there and done it, you don’t wany anything less,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lynn wants to develop that same drive to win in his team.
“The biggest thing is the desire to win. You’ve got to have the desire,” he said. “We’ve got to learn that we can win and we’re going to win. We’ve got to learn how to fight and keep fighting, because I won’t let them quit. You’ve seen me play when I was in high school and college, and not fighting isn’t in my vocabulary. I’ll never quit on these boys, and they won’t quit on me.”
Evan Smith, Murphy and Ronnie Saylor produced consecutive singles for Garrard in the third inning, which led to the Lions’ two runs. Murphy went 4 for 4 with a double and three singles.
Garrard County 002 000 0 — 2 6 4
Mercer County 310 340 x — 11 11 2
Seth Murphy, Chris McSorley (4), Logan Teague (6) and Ronnie Saylor. J.T. Long, Jon Banks (4), Mason Thompson (7) and Curry Brown, Brandon Doughty (6). W—Banks. L—Murphy. 2B—Murphy (GC), Dylan Logue (MC), J.T. Long (MC). HR—Chris Goodwin (MC).