FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The USC Upstate baseball team was tied 1-1 with No. 23 Mercer through five innings until a five-run sixth inning catapulted the Bears in front as they sailed to the eventual 7-3 victory in the opening game of the Atlantic Sun Conference series Friday night at Harley Park.
Mercer (34-12, 13-6 A-Sun) got on the board first, as Austin Barrett singled through the right side in the top of the second inning to plate Nick Backlund and give MU a 1-0 lead. The Spartans (24-19, 8-11 A-Sun) answered right back in the bottom half of the inning as Daniel Seeba doubled through the right side with one out. A Luke Weber single brought Seeba around to even things out at 1-1.
Both teams put up goose eggs in the third, fourth and fifth innings until the Bears broke out in the top of the sixth. Sasha LaGarde led off the frame with a triple through the left side and scored on a single from Derrick Workman. Backlund then reached on an Upstate fielding error, opening the floodgates for Mercer. The Bears went on to record five runs on five hits in the sixth to take a 6-1 advantage.
Jordan Rusk came on in the top of the seventh to relieve Upstate starter Brandon Lee. Lee allowed six runs and five earned runs, while picking up six strikeouts in 6.0 innings of work. Rusk was welcomed to the hill with a leadoff home run courtesy of MU's Chesny Young. Rusk then settled in, shutting down the next three batters.
Brody Greer extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a two-out, two-strike single to left field for the Spartans in the bottom of the eighth.
Weber gave Upstate a spark in the bottom of the ninth with a leadoff blast over the leftfield wall, notching his second home run in the last three games and fourth of the season. He led the Spartans at the dish on the night, going 3-for-4 with two RBI and one run scored.
The attempted comeback continued in the ninth for Upstate as Trey Richardson singled through the left side and advanced to second off of a Jordan Stampler single to left field. A passed ball moved Richardson and Stampler to third and second, respectively. With one out, Gaither Bumgardner stepped to the dish and grounded out to the pitcher, but managed to plate Richardson in the process for the RBI.
Lee took the loss, falling to 6-4, while Mercer's Brandon Barker improved to 6-0 on the year. Barker tossed 6.0 innings, giving up six hits and one earned run, while fanning five Spartan batters. Stephen Glaze threw 2.1 innings in relief for the Bears, allowing two runs, one earned run and four hits, while collecting one strikeout.
The second game of Upstate's doubleheader against Mercer Friday night is slated to begin at 7:45 p.m.