The loss drops Auburn to 31-22 on the year as they head to Arkansas for the final regular season series of the year this weekend in Fayetteville.
Despite solid pitching from Mike Felix, John Madden, Michael Nix and Cory Dueitt, who combined to allow just five hits and two runs to Mercer, the Tigers couldn't get anything going offensively against a pitcher that had been blasted much of the season. Coach Steve Renfroe said his club just didn't play well and that it was clearly evident at the plate.
"You never want to take away from anyone else," Renfroe said of the pitching of Mercer starter Philip Morrison, "but I saw some really not good at-bats. We had several guys that mentally had poor at-bats. A couple of them had a number of them. It was not a good night. They tried late, but you can't do that. You can't be flat against anybody. They pitched and defended and you have to give the guy credit."
Coming into Tuesday night's game Morrison sported a record of 3-10 and had allowed 40 runs in his last 21 innings of work. That didn't seem to matter on this night as he held Auburn to just five hits and no runs in six innings of work. The Beulah, Ala., native struck out seven and walked just three. Number one starter Brian Jones came on to close the game for the Bears and allowed three hits and one run in three innings. It was his first save of the season.
Both Tug Hulett and Ben Maitland had big games at the plate with three hits each, but neither could get any help around them until it was too late. Auburn stranded 11 runners on the night and struck out 10 times against Mercer pitching.
Early on it looked like the Tigers were ready to roll as Hulett drilled a double off the wall to open the bottom of the first, but that's as far as he would get as Morrison settled in to retire the Tigers and get out of the inning. The score remained tied until Mercer finally got through to Felix in the top of the fourth.
Leading off the inning, catcher Josh Thompson hit a routine fly ball to J.T. Williamson in right field, but the junior college transfer misplayed it for his third error of the season. That gave Mercer the break they were looking for because one out later a wild pitch from Felix moved Thompson up to second. A ground ball moved him to third just moments later where a Ty Megahee ground ball single to left field on a 3-0 pitch scored him to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.
The score would remain that way until the seventh as Mercer again took advantage of some help from Auburn. With one out and Madden on the mound, Andrew Einert walked. A single by Chase Swanson put an end to Madden's night as Renfroe went with Nix. The move didn't pay dividends right away as he quickly walked Rick Byrd to load the bases. Roger Alvarez then hit what looked to be a double play ball to Derek Sain at first, but the sophomore couldn't make the play cleanly and just got the out at first. That allowed Einert to score the eventual game winner.
Auburn answered in the bottom half of the inning thanks to the speed of Clete Thomas. With one out in the inning, Hulett singled to bring Thomas to the plate. Auburn's center fielder hit a ground ball that retired Hulett for the second out of the inning, but he quickly stole second to get into scoring position. That proved to be huge when Chuck Jeroloman singled to center field. The play easily scored Thomas to cut the lead to 2-1, but that's as close as the Tigers would come the rest of the way. Mercer closed out the game for its first win over Auburn in six tries and just the third in the last 26 meetings between the schools.
Auburn returns to action Friday night when they take on the hot Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville.