Spartans Shock No. 1 Mercer in A-Sun Championship

Spartans Shock No. 1 Mercer in A-Sun Championship

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DELAND, Fla. – Facing elimination for the second straight day at the 2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Championship, the No. 8 seed USC Upstate baseball team continued its remarkable postseason run Friday evening and into Saturday morning, knocking off 23rd-ranked and top-seeded Mercer 10-1 at Melching Field.

The win for the Spartans (28-29) snaps a 12-game losing streak in the all-time series with the Bears (43-16) and sends Mercer to its worst loss of the season with the nine-run defeat.

The Spartans advance to take on No. 4 seed ETSU on semifinal Saturday at 1:15 p.m., needing two wins to advance to the championship round. An if necessary game will take place Saturday at 8:15 p.m.

"Gaither was unbelievable tonight, said USC Upstate Head Coach Matt Fincher. "That was the game of his career in many ways. We have seen him do that type of thing before, but we needed a tremendous game from him tonight and he gave it to us so I am pleased for him and our team."

Pitching was again the story of the game as Gaither Bumgardner took the mound and refused to make Friday his final collegiate game, tossing 8.0 innings and giving up just one run, while striking out nine. The senior received a standing ovation from the crowd before Chad Sobotka came on to record the final three outs and slam the door on Mercer.

"We are fighting for every day," said Bumgardner, who carried the team to its second straight elimination game victory. "Coming out here and being able to do that tonight is pretty special."

Bumgardner had plenty of support early, as the Spartans batted around in the second inning, scoring five runs on four hits to take a commanding lead. Trey Richardson drove in the first run of the game with a single left center, but Tyler Lesch provided the big blow, a two-out two-run single to left field to cap the five-run frame.

Upstate continued its offensive surge in the fifth inning, but it was Richardson who provided the key hit this time, a two-run single to right field to send the Spartans to a three-run inning and break the game wide open with an 8-0 advantage.

The two teams traded runs in the eighth inning as Mercer broke up the shutout bid for Bumgardner and ended a string of 17 straight scoreless innings for Upstate pitchers. The Spartans added one more insurance in the ninth to hand Mercer its worse loss of the year and give Upstate a win over the bears for the first time in 1,126 days.

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