Florida had won six in a row, including a weekend sweep at No. 19 Alabama. The Gators were riding high, seemingly assured of a national seed (which they still are).
Then along came Mercer.
The No. 24 Bears scored all of their runs with two outs, including Michael Massi’s two-run homer in the seventh, and knocked off fourth-ranked Florida 4-2.
Senior Brandon Barker (4-3) pitched three perfect innings for the win and junior Dimitri Kourtis pitched the final two for his third save.
“You know, it was just one of those nights. Credit Mercer,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan told gatorzone.com. “We saw some pretty good arms and they did a nice job. They made pitches when they needed to and we’ve been on the other side of that plenty of times this year. It was one of those things where we didn’t get a big hit when we needed to. They got two or three hits when they needed to—bottom line.”
The Gators are 33-16, and 8-4 in midweek games. A.J. Puk made his first start since April 23 and pitched a scoreless inning, throwing 12 pitches. He stayed in the game as the DH, going 2-for-4.
“Obviously it’s disappointing, coming off a good weekend at Alabama,” said freshman John Sternagel, who joined Puk in having two hits. “I honestly don’t know how that happens, but we’re going to continue to work hard and we’ll be ready for Thursday.”
Other Top 25 Showdowns
(10) Louisville at (18) Vanderbilt: The Cardinals won their 11th in a row, beating the Commodores 11-7 in a rematch of last season’s Nashville Super Regional. The teams combined for 23 hits as the Cards got the best of the ‘Dores again in the third annual Battle of the Barrel.
Louisville got to Walker Buehler early as Alex Chittenden’s two-run homer highlighted a three-run first inning. Buehler (8-2) entered the game with a 1.49 ERA but gave up a season-worst seven earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.
Vandy battled back to regain the lead on Vince Conde’s grand slam in the first, but the Cards scored four in the third for a 7-3 lead. The Commodores closed it to 7-6 on Zander Wiel’s two-run homer, but Louisville pulled away with two in the fourth.
Brandon Alphin got the win with 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
Other Top 25 Results
(2) Oregon State at Oregon: It was an error-filled, midweek, nonconference game. But that didn’t mask the Ducks’ disappointment. A little more than a week after getting swept by the Beavers in the Civil War, the Ducks lost a tough one, 4-3, on Jeff Hendrix’s sacrifice fly in the 12th.
Hendrix knocked in three runs and his fly ball in the 12th scored Logan Ice, who had singled.
“Another great game for the Ducks and Beavers,” Oregon coach George Horton told The Oregonian. “And a very disappointing loss for us.”
The Beavers had 13 hits, two from Michael Conforto, who also threw out a runner trying to score in the eighth when the game was tied 3-3.
Scott Schultz (4.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K) got the win in relief.
(5) Florida State at Stetson: The Seminoles got a two-run single from Josh Delph and two doubles from John Sansone to beat Stetson 9-4. The game was more notable for the return to action of Jameis Winston following a suspension for shoplifting crab legs and crawfish from a Publix supermarket. Winston served 20 hours of community service and was reinstated on Sunday. Winston pitched the ninth and allowed an unearned run on one hit.
Pepperdine at (7) Cal Poly: The Mustangs avenged a midweek loss from a week ago as junior righthander Danny Zadona (5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K) stifled the Waves in a 5-1 win. Sophomore DH Brian Mundell knocked in three runs with two hits and a sacrifice fly. Cal Poly is 8-1 in midweek games. Pepperdine has lost four of its last five games.
Prairie View A&M at (16) Houston: Making his second career start, Andrew Lantrip was outstanding (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K) to improve to 5-0 as the Cougars blanked Prairie View 6-0. Michael Pyeatt, Casey Grayson and Caleb Barker each had two hits and Barker drove in two runs. Lantrip moved into the rotation on April 29 when David Longville was moved into the weekend rotation. Lantrip has won both starts and has not allowed an earned run.
“We’ve always known the potential is there,” Barker told the Houston Chronicle. “We’ve always seen the stuff. He’s really starting to put that together and get people out on a consistent basis.”
Jacksonville State at (19) Alabama: Looking to rebound from getting swept by Florida, the Crimson Tide got homers from Casey Hughston and Kyle Overstreet in a 6-1 win over Jacksonville State.
The Tide, tuning up for a weekend series at LSU, built a 4-0 lead after four. Mikey White was 3-for-4. Nick Eicholtz (4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K) got the win and Tucker Hawley went the final five, giving up only a run on five hits.
“It was a win we really needed,” Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard told rolltide.com. “Coming off a weekend that was rough, we needed a good clean game and win, and that’s what we got. We had a good start from Nick Eicholtz, which was really encouraging, and then (Tucker) Hawley was tremendous in the back end of the game, going five innings. It did a couple of things: those kids both pitched well, but it also allowed us to rest guys that threw a lot of pitches over the weekend to keep them fresh going into LSU this upcoming weekend.”
(23) UC Irvine at San Diego: The Anteaters erupted for a season-high 16 runs and then held off San Diego in a 16-11 win. UCI scored in every inning except the seventh and Ryan Cooper had three RBIs. The Anteaters had 17 hits, with Connor Spencer and Jonathan Munoz getting three knocks and Chris Rabago, Adam Alcantara and Evan Cassolato chipping in two.
Other Notable Results
Texas Tech at Dallas Baptist: Two days after being swept by Kansas in a series in which they scored eight runs, the Red Raiders bounced back to blast Dallas Baptist 18-3. Eric Gutierrez homered twice, including his first career grand slam, and Stephen Smith hit his first home run. Dylan Dusek and Jonny Drozd (6-0) combined for eight scoreless innings.
Campbell at North Carolina: Skye Bolt and Michael Russell each had three hits and Zac Gallen (6 IP, 5 H, O R, 1 BB, 6 K) earned the win, helping the Heels get a key win as they try to stay on the right side of the bubble for an at-large bid. Trevor Kelley struck out three in three innings for the save.
Florida Atlantic at Central Florida: The Owls of Florida Atlantic, who earlier this season beat Miami and Florida, shut down Central Florida 1-0. UCF got only three hits off five FAU pitchers. Kyle Miller (3.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K) started and Brandon Rhodes got the win with 2 1/3 perfect innings. Esteban Puerta, who reached on an error in the fifth, scored the only run on a passed ball.
Maryland at VCU: The Terps, in trouble after getting swept by Boston College, rebounded somewhat by routing VCU 12-1. Brandon Lowe knocked in five runs as Maryland used a seven-run sixth to blow open the game.
North Florida at Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets, on the bubble in the ACC according to Aaron Fitt, got a homer and four RBIs from Mitch Earnest and three RBIs from A.J. Murray and held off North Florida 9-6. North Florida did not go quietly, loading the bases in the eighth before senior Dusty Isaacs came out of the bullpen and limited the damage.
“They (UNF) battled back,” coach Danny Hall told ramblinwreck.com. “They can swing the bat and we ended up putting Dusty in and he got two big double-play balls in the eighth and the ninth.”
Virginia Tech at West Virginia: The Mountaineers rallied three times to beat the Hokies 4-3. West Virginia trailed 3-2 in the eighth when senior Jacob Rice doubled home Cam O’Brien to tie it and pinch-hitter Justin Fox’s grounder scored Ryan McBroom, who had doubled, to put WVU ahead for good.