MACON, GA - The Citadel baseball team closed out the regular season on a high note Saturday afternoon, notching a 7-5 victory off 13 hits to win the Southern Conference series 2-1 over Mercer.
The win gives the Bulldogs (19-33, 8-16 SoCon) seven weekend series wins overall on the season and three series victories in Southern Conference play. Both are the most for The Citadel since the 2015 squad claimed seven weekend series overall and three SoCon weekend series. It is also the first time since 2015 that the Bulldogs won the final regular-season series.
The Bulldogs out-hit the Bears (35-20, 11-13 SoCon) 13-7 as starting pitcher Jordan Merritt gave up just one hit through the first four innings. Merritt ended his day after pitching the first five innings as he struck out two batters and gave up just one earned run and four hits.
The Citadel edged out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second as Michael Ray recorded just his third RBI of the season, batting in Ryan McCarthy from second. McCarthy led off the frame with a single to left field and promptly stole second to set up Ray with the scoring opportunity.
In the top of the fourth, the 'Dogs added three runs to their total, including two off a Jonathan Sabo home run to left field. It was the fifth homer of the season for Sabo, who went 3-for-5 and was a triple away from batting for the cycle. Later in the inning, Taylor Cothran singled through the left side to score William Kinney, setting the score at 4-0.
The Bulldogs added another run in the top of the fifth when Sabo doubled to right-center field, scoring fellow senior Clay Martin with two outs on the board. The 'Dogs had three two-out runs scored in the first five innings.
Mercer then mounted a comeback with a single run in the fifth and four in the sixth to tie the game up, but the Bulldogs showed plenty of resiliency down the stretch.
In the top of the eighth inning, Cothran recorded his second RBI of the day as he batted in Jeffery Brown with the bases loaded after the Bears intentionally walked Bryce Leasure with one out, looking for the double play.
The 'Dogs then added an insurance run in the top of the ninth when Brown batted in Ray.
With a two-run lead in hand, Sabo closed out the win by retiring the Bears in order in the bottom of the ninth, including one strikeout. Sabo (S, 4) pitched the final two innings and struck out two batters without giving up a hit, run or walk. In fact, both the eighth and ninth innings saw the Bulldogs retire the Bears in order.
Alex Bialakis (Wm 3-5) earned his third win on the year as he pitched 1.1 innings and struck out one batter while Robert Broom (L, 10-3) was saddled with the loss. Broom pitched two complete frames and struck out two batters, but gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth.
At the plate, Kinney matched Sabo with a 3-for-5 effort with Brown and Cothran each logging multi-hit games as well. In total, seven different Bulldogs notched a hit in the victory.
The Bulldogs will next open the 2018 Southern Conference Baseball Championship presented by Holston Gases at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 22 against the Catamounts of No. 9 seed Western Carolina. The two teams will be battling for a spot in the double-elimination field.
-per The Citadel Athletics